Old Engine Turns Up In An Unlikely Spot

Posted: September 20, 1990

The West Point Volunteer Fire Company's 1947 Mack truck usually comes out of the firehouse only for parades, so Richard Hoffman wasn't expecting to run into it in the middle of Valley Forge Road in the dead of night.

A car driven by Hoffman, 33, of Tunnel Road in Perkasie, rear-ended the antique fire engine at 1:48 a.m. on Friday near Patriot Drive.

The volunteer firefighter who admitted taking the engine on a joy ride forgot to check the gas gauge, said Upper Gwynedd Police. And when the truck sputtered to a stop, the driver abandoned it.

"I guess it's kind of hard to pull in and fill up a fire engine without attracting too much attention," said Deputy Police Chief Wayne Cassel.

On Tuesday, the volunteer firefighter, George C. Slater, turned himself in to Upper Gwynedd Police. Slater, 28, of the 1400 block of North Wales Road, North Wales, was arrested and arraigned before District Justice John S. Murray 3d on charges of theft, criminal attempt, criminal trespass, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and reckless endangerment. He was released on his own recognizance and bail was set at $2,500. His preliminary hearing was scheduled for 9 a.m. next Thursday before Murray. Cassel said Slater had been a suspect

from the beginning.

Both Hoffman and the engine were only slightly hurt in the crash. Hoffman was taken to North Penn Hospital for treatment and released, and the engine was towed back to the township building at Sumneytown Pike and Parkside Place.

Upper Gwynedd Township Fire Marshall Ken Nolan was not laughing about the caper on Friday afternoon when police impounded the 1947 engine to check it for fingerprints. The antique has been doing temporary duty while another engine is being refurbished, he said. Until police finish their investigation, Nolan said, West Point will have to rely a little more heavily on neighboring fire departments for backup.

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