Jolly Old St. Nick has parked his sleigh and is letting the reindeer take a breather, as he climbs aboard Turlock’s most beloved fire engine on a mission to visit as many neighborhoods as possible over the next few weeks.
The Santa Truck will be making a tour of the city from today through Dec. 20 thanks to the ongoing efforts of Turlock Fire Incorporated, which began decades ago as a means to bridge the gap as the department transitioned from an all-volunteer fire department to one operated by the City of Turlock. Now, it is the driving force spreading Christmas cheer through Turlock. Fire personnel contribute $15 monthly to make sure the Santa Truck is kept in good working condition and has plenty of candy and holiday cheer to pass out during the city-wide tour.
“We’ve been doing this for well over 40 years and it is still such a thrill for people when we come to their neighborhood,” said Frank Saldivar, who recently retired from the fire department but is helping with Santa Truck operation.
The Santa Truck is a 1955 American LaFrance engine that for many years was a working engine used by the fire department to respond to calls before being put out of service and into storage.
The idea for the Santa Truck came from former fire chief Mark Langley, whose father worked for a fire department in Sacramento and had started a similar program.
“He thought it would be a great program to bring here and it took off from there,” Saldivar said.
Members of the Turlock Firefighters Local #2434 union sign up for time on the engine when they are off duty and help Santa spread some good tidings on his nightly neighborhood visits.
The tell-tale sign that the Santa Truck is approaching is the sound of the wind-up siren and the clanging of the bell.
“When people hear that they know were coming by and they start coming out of their homes,” Saldivar said.
To see when Santa will be visiting your neighborhood, go to https://www.cityofturlock.org/firedepartment/aboutus/santatruck/ and enter your address. Also follow the Turlock Firefighters, Local #2434 Facebook page for any updates or changes to the schedule.