Bringing Home Hubert
Photo by Dale FeehrerTruck 50 1971 CF Mack 75' Baker Aerialscope
Photo by Dale FeehrerA small spot reserved for Gene with his gear locker in the backround.
The start of the new year brought tragedy to the members of the Steelton Fire Department with the unexpected passing of their Chief. Gene Vance III passed away on 1/2/2024 at the age of 70 currently serving as Chief 50. Having served over 50 years with Steelton, it is safe to say that hundreds if not thousands of 1st Responders, community members, friends, and of course family all were unified in greif after learning about the passing of this great individual.
Though many will feel the effects of Gene's passing for a long time, this story has a positive lining all around a fire truck nicked named "Hubert" that may help. Steelton lays just outside of the City of Harrisburg. On larger fires Steelton will assist Harrisburg and vice versa. In 1971 the City of Harrisburg purchased a 1971 CF Mack with a 75' Baker/Aerialscope into service as Tower 1. After years of service the tower was placed for sale and purchased by the Steelton FD in 1991. The members rebuilt and repaired the tower and a short time later Truck 50 was placed into service. Gene loved the truck, as well as a 1980 CF Mack pumper that would be purchased years later from the FDNY.
In 2006 the decision was made to sell the "Hubert" and replace it was a newer E-One 95' tower that was a demo rig. Hubert was sold to the Caledonia Fire Department in Michigan. In 2022 Caledonia placed the '71 Mack up for sale and again was purchased, this time privately ending her run of 5 decades of service. Members of Steelton kept "tabs" on Hubert and knew of the sale and where she was located. During the planning stages for Chief Vance's funeral, members decided to honor their Chief and try to bring Hubert home.
Members of Steelton FD reached out to the owner (P. Danzo) via Facebook and notified him of their Chief's unexpected passing and their wishes to bring his beloved Truck 50 home one more time. Mr. Danzo appreciated the situation and graciously allowed the members to bring back the tower, with one small hitch. Hubert, now over 50 years old has developed some mechanical issues and would not be able to make the 4 hour journey back home to Steelton. With under 24 hours left until Gene's funeral, members again reached out and contacted H&S Towing for help. H&S Towing has a fleet of tow trucks, wreckers, and flat bed tractor trailers. Moving Hubert, again a 1971 Mack with a 75' boom is nothing they could not handle. H&S towing gladly accepted the challenge, and the owner notified the members that this was going to be done free of charge as a way to honor Chief 50.
Hubert was picked up in Hackensack, NJ and delivered in the afternoon back to Steelton safely on January 10th with the services being held the next morning. Hubert greeted the thousands that attended Gene's service and although an extremely sad day for so many, the amount of generosity and work that went into bringing back a simple fire truck showed how many people cared, loved, and respected Gene Vance III.
Rest Easy Chief.
Thanks to the Steelton Fire Department for allowing me to stop up and gather the info for this story and allowing me to photograph Hubert.