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Smithwick man collects and restores fire trucks for fun and emergencies

Smithwick resident and fire truck aficionado Jeff Sellers shows off a 1981 GMC 6000 tanker he restored to working order. Though it’s part of his ‘collection,’ Sellers, a member of the Marble Falls Area Volunteer Fire Department, uses the truck to respond to brush and grass fires in the Smithwick area. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton


SMITHWICK —  The problem with many collections is the items just sit there, something to be looked at but never touched. Jeff Sellers takes a different approach with his “collectibles.”

“Oh, yeah, if I need to use them, I do,” he said. “These are fully operational.”

Sellers collects fire trucks. Well, collecting might be the wrong word. He owns three: a tanker and two brush trucks.He built the two brush trucks after buying each chassis and associated flatbed. He got the tanker from a friend and rebuilt and refurbished it. All three are capable of responding to fires.

“I’ve always been interested in fire trucks and firefighting,” he said. Sellers owns Wildfire Consultants LLC., which helps property owners develop plans in fire prevention. He also consults with homeowners about fire protection and alarms.

Until recently, Sellers was the general manager of Hidden Falls Adventure Park, which covers about 3,000 acres in Smithwick. He and his family own and live on 200 acres adjacent to the park.

Smithwick man collects fire trucks
Before Jeff Sellers began refurbishing this 1981 GMC fire truck, it showed quite a bit of wear and tear. But six months later, the vehicle was ready and capable of responding to fires. Courtesy photo

With all the brush, trees and grasslands, Sellers saw a need for onsite firefighting capabilities.

“With a fire truck here, we could respond quickly instead of having to drive into town and get a truck or wait on one to come out,” said Sellers, who is a member of the Marble Falls Area Volunteer Fire Department. “It allowed us, and still allows us, to get water on a fire quickly. I can also use it, and I have, to respond to fires in the Smithwick area.”

It just made sense to build or refurbish fire trucks.

Or, maybe, it was just a good excuse. The truth is Sellers just loves to tinker with and build things. Fire trucks offer a great way to indulge that love.

“Fire trucks are so mechanical,” he said. “You not only have the engine, but the tanks and pumps. You’re moving water from one part to the other.”

Sellers’ tanker, a 1981 GMC 6000, started with the Grandview Volunteer Fire Department before it landed in the hands of one of his friends, who then gave it to Sellers.

At the time, the tanker needed extensive repairs. Rust ate at parts of it. The water tank was useless. The motor needed a tremendous amount of work.

On top of that, the truck was white.

Once in his hands, Sellers transformed the tanker. He put six months into the vehicle before it was ready to respond to fires, both on and off the ranch.

And, he painted it red.

“It’s fully operational,” Sellers said. Then, he launched into the specifics, horsepower, water pressure, gearing, gallons per minute …

Suffice to say despite 32 years under its chassis, the tanker clambers up dry, caliche roads with little problem.

Sellers rounded out his personal fire department with two brush trucks, both of which he built.

He purchased one of the flatbed trucks from a pawn shop. It was maroon and, like the tanker, needed a little TLC to get it into firefighting shape. Sellers shrugged at the notion he pursued an unconventional hobby.

“They’re just cool,” he said about the trucks. He’s not alone in that thinking. Anytime he or somebody takes one of the trucks out on a non-emergency, people crowd around the apparatus, trying to get a closer look, especially children and men. “I think people just love being up close to something that saves lives.”

Sellers isn’t holding on to the trucks for perpetuity. All three are for sale, though he’ll keep whichever of the brush trucks doesn’t sell to have in case of a nearby fire. If the other two go, he won’t spend much time lamenting over them. He has other plans.

“I’ll build or rebuild another one,” he said. “It’s just fun.”

Plus, like he said, fire trucks are just cool.