Even without parades, Lt. Smith’s ‘Backdraft’ car shines

Even without parades, Lt. Smith’s ‘Backdraft’ car shines

Lt. Chris Smith cleans his 1990 fire chief’s car in front of Cumberland Fire Station 2 last Friday as he prepared to deliver a check to the Ronald McDonald House Charities. (Breeze photo by Ethan Shorey)

CUMBERLAND – With many parades and other events canceled this year due to the pandemic, Lt. Christopher Smith of the Cumberland Fire Department has been participating in as many drive-by birthdays and other celebrations as he can.

Smith’s chosen ride is the center of attention wherever he goes. He took a 1990 Ford Crown Victoria and converted it into a fire chief’s car similar to the one Robert De Niro drove in the 1991 movie “Backdraft.”

The movie was shot in Chicago and Smith was born in Chicago.

Last Friday, Sept. 4, Smith was out in front of Fire Station 2 on Mendon Road scrubbing his prized classic in preparation for a drive to a Friday night cruise night at Stop & Shop in Valley Falls. The late Chris Borges, a Cumberland firefighter who died suddenly of natural causes on Aug. 30, 2018, was a fixture at these events when he wasn’t on duty, said Smith. At those events, Borges would talk with everyone about all things related to classic automobiles.

The firefighters of Cumberland began a memorial donation annually in the name of Borges to the Ronald McDonald House Foundation, which is the primary cause supported by the Chevy owners association that puts on the Friday night cruise nights.

This year, combined efforts resulted in more than $2,250 being donated, which Smith said is quite a feat in the shadows of COVID-19. He drove the check to Stop & Shop and presented it on firefighters’ behalf last Friday.

As for his car, Smith said that aside from all the body work and mechanical issues he fixed himself, gathering period-correct equipment was the real challenge. He was able to secure the lightbar and radio equipment used by the Chicago Fire Department, and he has an actual Illinois license plate and inspection sticker correct to the time period for display purposes.

“It was a labor of love that took a few years to finish,” he said.