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Bedford fire fighter remembered for saving community treasure

By Tim Saunders, tsaunders@wdbj7.com
Published On: Aug 21 2013 05:44:00 PM EDT
Updated On: Aug 21 2013 06:46:15 PM EDT

Ray Trail did more than just put out flames in his hometown. He's credited with saving a piece of local history.

BEDFORD, Va. -

Bedford is mourning the loss of a longtime fire fighter.

Ray Trail did more than just put out flames in his hometown. He's credited with saving a piece of local history: a 1927 Seagrave fire truck.

"This truck means a lot to the department," said Zeph Cunningham, deputy chief of the Bedford Fire Department. "It was our first motorized fire truck. One of the first motorized pieces in this area."

The vehicle, which features hand-painted logos and a bell made of nickle plate, carried firefighters to thousands of calls until its retirement in the early 1960's.

It sat idle and was almost forgotten, until Trail stepped up to save it

"Ray was instrumental in the preservation and restoration of the truck," Cunningham said.

During his time as fire chief in the 1980's, Trail rallied support to bring the truck back to its original glory.

"We had been saving money for years to try and get it refurbished, and we decided to go ahead and do it," said Russell Stevens, Bedford's assistant fire chief.

Trail wanted the truck to be an educational tool, to show future generations how fires were fought in the past.

"History has a lot to do with the fire service," Stevens said. "It's where we get our inspiration from."

The truck Trail worked hard to preserve carried him to his final resting place Wednesday. He spent more than 30 years successfully battling fires, but lost a fight with cancer a few days ago.

Colleagues say his memory will live on in the fight he manged to win: the restoration of a community treasure.

"Our tradition and where we came from is important to us and this truck is a huge symbol for that here in Bedford," said Cunningham.

The Seagraves truck is on public display at the Bedford Welcome Center. There you can both see it and learn about its history.

In addition to working as a firefighter, Trail was also a 911 dispatcher for the Bedford County Sheriff's Office. In lieu of flowers, his family is asking people to make a donation to the sheriff's department K-9 unit.