Playing with Fire

Books and Magazines

By Michael J. Legeros

This month, let's talk reading material. Of the many firefighting books that I've cataloged over the years-- see here are handful worth recommending outright. No library should be without these.
First, the magazine rack. If you don't have one already, subscribe to Fire Apparatus Journal, a glossy rag released every other month and now in full color. Each issue packs several dozen photographs of posed apparatus, primarily American and Canadian and most of them modern. Regular columns include military rigs, fireboats, and industrial apparatus. There's even an "In Scale" column about our very hobby!


American Fire Engines Since 1900 by Walter P. McCall. The "bible" of fire engine books was published by Crestline in 1976, but is still readily available from used book dealers. Over 2,000 black-and-white photographs populate 383 informative pages, with chapters divided into years after 1905.  All that's missing is a numbered index.  
The F.D.N.Y Super Pumper System by John A. Calderone. First published in 1985 by Fire Apparatus Journal Publications, this stapled soft cover was reprinted this year to the delight of apparatus buffs. Over 84 pages, the author details the history of the famous system and includes dozens of great photographs. Includes 18 color photos.  
Gatefold Book of Fire Engines by Clifford T Jones. Published by Barnes & Noble books in 1999, this spiral-bound hardcover features 36 pullout "gatefold" color photographs of fire engines of model years from 1920 to 1967. Over half are American rigs and the pullout pages include both front and back shots. Like McCall's book, this one's also out-of-print but still available from used book dealers.  
A Guide to New York City Fire Apparatus: 2002 Edition by John A. Calderone (ed.). This small, stapled soft cover from Fire Apparatus Journal Publications is a full-color review of New York City fire apparatus.  Engines, ladders, special ops, reserve units, they're all here.  Sample supplants an earlier 1995 guide. 96 pages.  
The History of Fire Engines by John A. Calderone. Barnes & Noble Books also published this handsome hardcover in 1997, an excellent history of fire apparatus that's nearly entirely in color and features big, bright, and often full-page apparatus photos. It's also out-of-print, but still available from used book dealers. 128 pages.  
Los Angeles City Fire Apparatus: 1953-1999 Photo Archive by Chuck Madderom.  Iconografix publishes dozens of these soft cover, 128-page, black-and-white photo archives.  Most of the fire apparatus titles are based on manufacturers, but this 2000 collection of LA City rigs is pleasing for pics of both the classic Crowns and various specialized pieces of equipment.  
Special Police Vehicles by Larry Shapiro. Though not a "fire book" per se, this 1999 soft cover from Motorbooks International features 80 color photographs of law enforcement vehicles, including a chapter on the NYPD Emergency Services Unit.  That's an ESU ERV, military surplus M75 on the cover. 96 pages.  

There are others, of course.  Iconografix has produced other notable photo archives, such as Mack Model CF Fire Trucks and Private and Industrial Fire Apparatus.  They've also released more expansive surveys, such as Heavy Rescue Trucks: 1931-2000 and Wildland Fire Apparatus: 1940-2001.

Donald F. Wood and Wayne Sorensen's Big City Fire Truck volumes are photo-filled, as is Sheila Buff's Fire Engines in North America.  For color photos, Motorbooks International has other titles.

For really old apparatus, W. Fred Conway's books Chemical Fire Engines and Those Magnificent Steam Fire Engines are recommended. For hard-core historians, Matthew Lee's A Pictorial History of the Fire Engine, Volume 2 is unsurpassed.  Now if I could just find a copy of Volume 1...

Do you have favorite fire book? Did I forget an essential volume? Let me know.

A version of this column originally appeared at Code 3 Collectibles.


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Copyright 2017 by Michael J. Legeros