RAVENNA — Ever since recent Ravenna High School graduate Tyler Wetzel was a young Scout, the Ravenna Volunteer Fire Department’s early 1900s fire hose cart sat deteriorating outside the fire station.
So when he was a sophomore Tyler decided to refurbish it for his Eagle Scout project.
“I just thought it looked a little sad so I decided to fix it up,” Tyler said.
Tyler’s assistant Boy Scout leader at the time, Russ Crowell said: “The wheels were so deteriorated. The spokes in here were kind of half gone. It was just kind of sitting at an angle. It was pretty bad when we first started on it.”
Crowell, who is also a member of the RVFD, an EMT and Ravenna’s emergency management coordinator, said the cart, known as a hose reel, has sat outside the fire station as long as he can remember. He joined the fire department in 1993.
In its prime, the cart would have been pulled by a team of horses or men separately from a water tank.
“It’s a phenomenal piece of history,” he said.
Tyler and his team of Boy Scout members and leaders — Crowell, Larry Wilke, Bryce Luth and Ken Stittle — wanted to stay true to that history when restoring the cart. Wilke is a captain with RVFD, while Luth is an assistant chief.
For example, the rotted wheels were replaced with wooden ones rather than metal, though wood deteriorates more quickly in the elements.
Before getting started on the project, Tyler approached the RVFD board about his plan to fix up the hose reel, which Crowell believes was built sometime between 1910 to 1912.
It was a challenge for Tyler, who is quiet by nature, to approach the board. But, he said, he outlined his talking points and the experience helped him become a public speaker.
The fire department board, as well as the Boy Scouts organization, approved Tyler’s project. So, right away his team of Boy Scout members and leaders began to work on the cart in Crowell’s garage. They finished the project in January of this year.
Tyler was involved in every step of the project. Crowell said Tyler acted as team leader and delegated responsibilities.
“It was his responsibility to line up all the people, the timing — when we can do it, where we can do it and who can do it,” Crowell said.
“It’s life skills. Boy Scouts teaches you life skills.”
The team first disassembled the cart and decided they needed to replace the wooden wheels and handles on the cart. Luth rebuilt the handles in his wood shop, but the team needed a professional to remake the wheels.
The team found a company in South Dakota, Hansen Wheel and Wagon Shop, that rebuilds stagecoach wagons and old hose carts.
Part of the reason it took so long to finish Tyler’s project, he said, was because two weather events deterred them from getting to South Dakota to pick up the wheels.
“The first time we were going to go and get them, we couldn’t because of a snowstorm and the second time was because of the flooding,” Tyler said.
But eventually they found detours to get around flooded roads. While in South Dakota, Tyler toured the wagon shop.
“He got to see how they build the wheels and how they put them all together,” Crowell said.
“It was pretty neat. It’s kind of like wood shop but bigger scale,” Tyler said.
Tyler reached out to other local businesses to work on the project.
Hand Machining Co. in Pleasanton straightened the hose reel bar and Goodfellow’s Paint and Body in Ravenna sandblasted and painted the cart red and black once it was reassembled.
Neither company charged Tyler for their work.
Tyler said he most enjoyed helping to sandblast the metal pieces of the cart.
Between Tyler and his helpers, he said it took 320 hours to complete the project.
Currently, the cart is sitting inside Ravenna’s fire hall. Crowell said they will unveil it at Tyler’s Eagle Scout ceremony, which has been postponed because of COVID-19. But they hope public health will improve enough that they can have the ceremony in early August before Tyler leaves for electrical construction and control school at Northeast Community College in Norfolk.
The project, Tyler said, was a relief to finish, and it taught him organization skills.
“I learned it’s difficult being the one planning stuff because you’ve got to make sure everyone’s schedules line up and stuff, and you’ve got to make sure that the ball keeps rolling on the project,” he said.
Crowell said Tyler was a strong leader during the project and during his time as a Boy Scout.
“The (younger) boys will come to him,” Crowell said.
Tyler also has a strong sense of responsibility. After Crowell broke numerous bones in an accident in March 2019, Tyler ran Crowell’s lawn mowing business.
“For a 17-year-old kid to step up to the plate and take 17 residential yards and four big businesses, and keep it going, keep everybody happy, keep it all mowed and trimmed, was pretty amazing,” Crowell said.
Tyler said it was challenging taking care of the lawns on his own.
“... I was the only one there to do it. So if it was wrong, I did it wrong,” he said.
Crowell’s customers seemed to be satisfied, though.
“Out of all of those yards, Tyler, we never had one person complain, and you did a perfect job,” Crowell told Tyler.