Fire Museums Preserve History, Offer Safety Tips
The field of firefighting has advanced tremendously in its history.
Firefighters have gone from bucket brigades and fire wagons pulled by horses – or people – to state-of-the-art technology that goes beyond “putting the wet stuff on the red stuff.”
And no matter where you are in Ohio, you’re probably not far from a museum that celebrates the history of firefighting. Many fire museums, from the Central Ohio Fire Museum in Columbus to Mentor’s Fire Museum, are decommissioned fire stations.
The Toledo Firefighters Museum is another example of an old firehouse being repurposed. The museum, located in the city’s Five Points neighborhood, was built as Station 18 in 1920. It was the first fire station in the city with concrete floors, as motorized equipment started getting heavier, and without stables for horses. The building was decommissioned in 1975, and the Toledo Firefighters Museum started the next year.
The museum has three trucks on display in the engine bay, as well as a horse-drawn boiler wagon and one of the first firefighting wagons owned by the city, an 1837 Neptune. In addition to educational displays for youths, the museum also has an archive for research purposes, with log books and call sheets detailing the day-to-day operation of the fire department. Jamie Ferguson, public education director for the Toledo Fire Department, said it’s not uncommon for people to look up records of fires at their homes or car wrecks they’ve been involved in.
Admission is FREE to the Toledo museum, which is funded through donations, largely from active firefighters. Ferguson said they display a fraction of their holdings, and could expand at some point in the near future.
The Western Reserve Fire History Museum in Cleveland is in the old Fire Station #28 and Cleveland Fire Alarm Office and Dispatch Center. The museum is currently closed as the Inner Belt Bridge project goes on literally at its front door, but a grand opening is slated for next year.
The Cincinnati Fire Museum commemorates more than 200 years of firefighting history in the Queen City. Cincinnati can boast the oldest professional full-time firefighting corps in the country, having started in 1853.
Many fire museums, in addition to their historic value, are also used as outreach tools. When I went to the Toledo museum, a crowd of children were learning about fire safety, including what to do if the house is on fire and to stop, drop and roll when their clothes are on fire.
And finally, the Toledo Firefighters Museum does have a pole in it, which firefighters used to slide down from their living quarters to the engine bays. And no, you can’t use it. But they do have a smaller version for kids – and maybe kids at heart – to use.