CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Tom Herman is a collector with an addiction. The career firefighter first got into collecting as a teen.
"I got into collecting fire memorabilia and just kind of never stopped," Herman, now known as an authority on almost all things fire service related, said. "I don’t know how this happened but it just kind of morphed over a 40-year time period."
The list of Herman's collectibles spans a 120-page inventory and includes badges, helmets, fire alarms, and fire extinguishers. It also includes a collection of fire trucks.
"In 1976, I bought our first antique fire truck," Herman said. "Right now, we are at about 18. Just think about all the responses that they made to fires, accidents, and what these trucks have seen over the years."
He spends years, in some cases, disassembling, cleaning, and reassembling the old trucks.
Herman is a member of the Old Dominion Historical Fire Society.
“We now have over 300 members, who collectively own approximately 250 antique fire apparatus," he said.
Including a truck that Herman can trace back to his first days at Chesterfield County’s Phillips Fire Department.
"The first new fire truck we ever had at the Phillips Volunteer Fire Department was a 1977 Mack. I actually drove that truck home from the Mack Factory when the county purchased it," Herman said.
More than 30 years later, Herman bought it act action and drove it home.
His collection also includes an 1859 hand-drawn hose reel and a truck from 1925.
“Sometimes we have the opportunity to send a vehicle back to where it served originally, it means something to the citizens there," he said.
One truck that came into his possession came from the Cross Acres South Carolina Fire Department. When it arrived to the barn at Tom’s house, he began his usual research.
“That’s when we find out the truck was originally built for the Lakewood New Jersey Fire Department," he said. "[I then got] an email which almost make me fall out of my chair.”
Herman learned the truck had a link to May 6, 1937.
“This was the very truck that responded to the Hindenburg and we have all the documentation in our files," he said. "On the day of the Hindenburg Disaster, Lake Hurst contacted Lakewood, to respond to that incident on their mutual aid agreement."
More than 30 people were killed in one of the most infamous aviation disasters in U.S. history.
It is believed to be one of just two existing firetrucks known to have been on-site that day.
"It creates great historical significance for this vehicle," he said.
A vehicle that may soon be sent back to its home in New Jersey.
“Yes we are preserving history, that’s the root of it, but it’s also something you can enjoy along the way," Herman said.
Watch CBS 6 senior reporter Wayne Covil's Wayne's World reports every Wednesday on CBS 6 News at 11 p.m. If you know someone Wayne should feature, email him at email@example.com
Find unique, award-winning stories every day on CBS 6 News:
Mondays: CBS 6 Gives
Tuesdays: CBS 6 Problem Solvers Investigations
🏙️ Wednesdays: Our RVA
Wednesdays: Wayne's World
🙋♀️Heroes Among Us
Thursdays: Beyond the Roster
Fridays: I Have a Story