By Anne Elizabeth Eaves
At Fire Station Number 1, there lived a proud little fire engine named Fred. He worked for the Fire, Rescue & Emergency Department, and he had the letters F.R.E.D. painted on his side. That's where he got his name. Fred loved being a fire truck more than anything else in the world. When the fire bell rang, all the firemen would slide down the pole and jump on board. Then Fred would speed off to the burning building. Fred may have been old, but he was still fast on his wheels. He would blare his siren, clang his bell and flash his red lights to let everyone know he was coming. All the other cars would pull to the side of the road to let Fred come speeding by. Fred felt very important. When they reached the burning building, Fred knew just what to do. He had done this many, many times before. Fred would stop right by the fire hydrant to help the firemen unroll the hose and hook it to the hydrant so they could spray water on the fire as quickly as possible. Fred would open his tool cabinet so the firemen could get their axes and picks to chop down the door. Fred would loosen the latches so the firemen could remove the ladders and climb up to rescue people from the burning building. The firemen were very brave, and Fred was proud to be a part of their team. He was a hard worker and big help to the firemen. By the time the fire was put out, the firemen were tired and covered with soot and grime. So was Fred. But not too tired to drive the firemen safely back to Station Number 1. As soon as they arrived at the station, the firemen gave Fred a good scrubbing. They washed him up, wiped him down and put him to bed for a well-deserved rest. Fred smiled the smile of a job well done, parked inside Station Number 1. Yes, Fred loved being a fire truck more than anything else in the world. That's why he was so heart broken about what happened a few days later. Monday usually was maintenance day for Fred. That's when he got his body waxed and rubbed, his joints greased, and his engine checked out for knocks and pings. Fred liked maintenance day a lot. It made him feel very special. And he enjoyed being out in the sunlight to show off his gleaming red coat and his shiny bell.
But one gray and cloudy Monday, something strange happened. One of the firemen drove Fred outside and parked him in the vacant lot beside the station. Fred thought that was very odd. He had never been parked outside in the cold before. He was always kept inside the station where it was snug and warm. Then Fred saw it. The biggest, strongest fire engine he had ever seen! A brand new fire engine came swaggering up to the fire station and stopped out front, leaving its strange-sounding siren screeching and its odd-looking blue and white lights flashing. "What a big show-off," Fred thought. The firemen rushed out of Station Number 1 to see the new fire engine. The firemen looked under the hood and oohed and aahed. They hoisted the long ladders and wowwed in amazement. They rolled out the hoses and nodded their approval. The firemen seemed very happy to have this shiny new fire engine at Station Number 1. Poor Fred felt forgotten and neglected. He tooted his horn but no one noticed. He rang his bell, but no one paid attention. He even turned on his siren, but it was drowned out by the blare of the new engine's siren. Then the firemen backed the prized new fire engine up the driveway and parked it inside Station Number 1, right in the very spot where Fred usually was kept. The firemen closed the station door, leaving Fred out in the cold. Before long, it started to rain. Fred began to shiver. He wasn't used to being left out in the weather. He belonged inside the station where it was warm and dry. Raindrops rolled off of his headlights. No one even noticed there were teardrops, too. Fred was all alone and crying in the rain. Every day after that, when the fire bell sounded, Fred perked up in anticipation. He kept hoping the firemen would come rushing out, jump on board and roar off to a fire with him, just like before. But they never did. It was always the young, strong engine that went to the fires, now. Fred felt completely useless. What had he done to deserve this? Hadn't he been a loyal, dependable fire engine for nearly 20 years? Had he ever once failed to start? Didn't he always get the firemen to the fire as fast as any engine could go? What had he done...except...except get old? "Oh, well, I guess that's what happens when you get old," Fred thought. "You get replaced." Day after day, Fred sadly watched the firemen wash, wax and pamper the new fire engine. The firemen were always so busy taking care of their new engine they didn't notice that Fred's health was getting worse and worse.
His exhaust pipe was clogged up with a bird's nest, his tires were going flat, and worst of all, he was beginning to rust! "It won't be long until I'm a goner," thought Fred. "But who would notice, anyway? I'm just a worthless old hunk of metal that's good for nothing any more." How wrong Fred was! One day, Fred heard the fire alarm sound and watched longingly as the firemen rushed off to the fire. They had only been gone a few minutes when Fred thought he smelled smoke. He sniffed the air. Yes, it was smoke. Something was burning! Then he saw smoke coming out of the side window on the second floor of Station Number 1. "That's the window in the kitchen where the firemen cook their meals," thought Fred. "Goodness me, the firemen must have left something on the stove, and it caught on fire!" More smoke began to billow out the window. "The fire is spreading!" Fred thought in horror. "I've got to do something or the fire station will burn down! But what can I do?" Fred thought for a moment, then he remembered, he still had a siren. "That's it," Fred thought, "I'll sound the alarm with my siren." Fred turned on his siren, but nothing happened. "Oh, no, my battery must be low!" thought Fred. He tried again, but nothing. He tried again and again and again. But the siren wouldn't sound. "What's the use?" thought Fred. "My battery is too low to turn on the siren. I guess the fire station will burn to the ground." "No, I can't let that happen!" thought Fred. "I won't let that happen!" Fred tried again. Still nothing. He tried again, this time straining with all his might to make the siren work. Suddenly, the siren gave a soft slow murmur. Fred tried even harder, and the siren began to get louder, then louder, then louder. "Arrrrr-arrrrrr-arrrrr," the siren slowly began to squeal. "ARRRRR-ARRRRR-ARRRR," it began to wail, getting louder and louder and louder until it became ear piercing. It worked. The neighbor across the street peeked out to see what all the ruckus was about. Imagine the neighbor's surprise when she saw smoke pouring out of the fire house window! She quickly ducked back into the house to call 9-1-1. It wasn't long before Fred heard a fire engine screaming down the street toward Station Number 1. It was the firemen from Station Number 2. They quickly ran into the fire house and put out the fire. Luckily, all that burned was the meat that had been accidentally left on the stove. A few minutes later, the new fire engine pulled up to the fire house. The firemen who lived at Station Number 1 were embarrassed that their very own fire station had caught on fire.
"It's a good thing you had Fred parked out there," the other firemen told the Captain at Station Number 1. "If his siren hadn't alerted the neighbors, your fire house might have burned to the ground." Fire Engine Fred had saved the fire house. To show their appreciation, the firemen shined him up, gave him a medal and made him the honorary chief of fire engines. They even built his own special room at Fire Station 1 where he spends his days... that is, when he's not at school teaching kids about fire engines, and being a fireman and, most important of all, practicing fire safety. Fred may be too old to fight fires any more, but he's still able to help the firemen. By teaching kids to prevent fires, Fred might save the day once again.
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