HOPE (NEWS CENTER Maine) -- In an old chicken barn, with the smooth sounds of a few old friends practicing their blues, Andy Swift restores very old fire engines. His interest began as a toddler, with an old pedal engine.
When he was 17-years-old he converted a fire engine into a hot dog wagon. "I was selling hot dogs out of the back of it at Cooks Corner," says Swift.
But it wasn't until Swift actually became a firefighter, working in Valdez, Alaska that he did his first restoration. When his wife Kathy mentioned wanting to move back to Maine, life and a new career started moving East.
Thirty years into his business, Swift runs Firefly Restorations out of his three-story barn in Hope, he usually has a dozen or so engines under the roof at any given time, keeping himself and his workers busy.
Each engine takes about a year and a half to fully restore; part of the reason is a wait for parts that come from all over the country, the other part is how much research goes into each piece. Swift knows the stories that come with every engine that pulls into his yard, and it's important to him to ensure they are as historically accurate as possible when they leave.
He estimates he's restored around 100 engines over the years, but if you ask him, one of the most meaningful was a hose engine for New York City shortly after the September 11 attacks. "I thought, well geez let's get together with every fire department in the state and everybody pitch in for the materials and it became something from everybody from Maine." he says.
That's the only time Andy will get serious: when he talks about the brotherhood. Otherwise, this Allagash drinking entrepreneur likes to joke, keep his doors open to friends and neighbors, and go wherever life seems to take him; as long as it includes a fire engine.