Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming is the world's oldest national park, created in 1872 in a region once described as "the place where hell bubbles up." Geothermal features such as the Old Faithful geyser, are evidence of one of the world's largest active volcanoes. Another fiery feature of Yellowstone is its sporadic severe wildfires.
As of early August 2004, only 14 small fires have been reported in the park this year. However, on 20 July the park's eastern entrance was closed indefinitely by a mudslide from an area stripped of vegetation by forest fires in recent years. A fire burned 23,500 acres in the area last summer and closed the east entrance for about two weeks. A fire in 2001 closed the gate for 11 days.
Yellowstone Park Fire Department has owned five Willys/Howe Commando fire trucks. The composite illustration above shows one of the Willys trucks, with an NPS photo of a recent fire in the background. The foreground is an NPS photo taken in the Madison River Canyon showing the vehicle and crew pumping from the river (40K JPEG) while involved in suppressing the North Fork Fire of 1988, one of the fires which destroyed over 1.2 million acres in Yellowstone that summer.
One Willys 6-226 Howe Commando Fire Truck (right) is in the park's Historic Vehicles Collection (80K JPEG). Information on the Yellowstone Park website describes the truck as a 1960 Willys. It has the more streamlined bodywork, different from the truck in the action photo above. (Also on The CJ3B Page, see a similar Howe truck restored in Utah.)
The Commando in the museum has a 500 GPM Waterous Model CF-3 pump and 150 gallon tank, and the body was modified at some point to carry breathing apparatus on one side. This vehicle was last stationed at the Tower Junction area, and participated in fire suppression efforts at Grant Village during the forest fires of 1988. It was removed from service in 1996.
Slight differences from the above photos suggest that this NPS archival photo shows once again a different one of the five. It is likely the 1957 Willys listed as Howe serial no. 10126 in the Howe Fire Apparatus Jeep Production List, which also shows serial no. 10743, a 1960 truck, as being shipped to Yellowstone.
Two of the five Willys/Howe trucks are still in service, at the south and east park entrances. According to Emergency Vehicle Technician/Fire Mechanic E. Johann Anderson, a third is being refitted as a light-duty rescue truck. One truck had its pump removed and was sent to Grant/Kohrs National Historic Park in Montana where it serves as a flatbed work truck.
Yellowstone's large fire department also operates many larger vehicles in various paint schemes such as these trucks in National Park Service green.
Thanks to Lynn Krodel of St. Anthony, Indiana for locating the photos and information on the Willys Commandos. I would be interested if anyone has recent photos of the ones still in service. -- Derek Redmond
Return to Fire Service Jeeps on The CJ3B Page.
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