Md. -- An initiative to establish
a National Fire Heritage Center is progressing.
This venture will not be your typical fire
museum with antique helmets, uniforms and equipment. Instead,
this will be a repository for historic documents, pictures and
Organizers are anxious to preserve documents
relating to fire codes, disciplines, research, engineering,
drawings, and photographs.
"We've put the fabric of the organization
together. It's been a rather laborious process though," said Ron
The executive committee met for several hours
this past week at the Vigilant Hose Company in Emmitsburg, just
blocks from its future home.
Plans call for the heritage center to be in
the building that formerly housed the Emmitsburg Ambulance
Company located just a short distance from the National Fire
The Frederick County fire museum will share
part of the building as well.
"Right now, we're in the process of getting
members. And, we need funds to proceed," Coleman said.
Membership categories follow colors associated
with the fire service -- brass, silver, gold, platinum and
diamond. The rates associated range from $25 to $500.
People who sign on at one of those levels
before Oct. 1, 2009, will be considered charter members, said
Wayne Powell, treasurer.
The group is deciding special membership
status or designation for people who donate libraries or items
needed to preserve the items.
Recently, members visited the Army museum to
get an idea how they preserve artifacts. They understand how
important it will be to know the process to protect the items
from mold, insects and further detoriation.
"We've got to get people to know we're
interested in these things. When they are cleaning out boxes in
an attic or basement, many may simply take them to the dump. The
smallest item could be of great significance," said James
"Robbie" Robertson, secretary.
Robertson, a longtime fire service historian,
swapped trivia with Coleman and Powell over lunch.
"While many can name the first to have
something, many can't remember the last," Coleman said. "This is
part of our history. We find it fascinating..."
Coleman's own notes will be part of the
display. He was fire chief in San Clemente, Cal., when the city
council passed an ordinance requiring sprinklers, the first in
In addition to documents, the group said oral
histories also are vital. Powell pointed out that EMS folks did
an admirable job in preserving some of its history through
interviews with key players, including the late James O. Page,
considered a pioneer in the field.
During lunch, the men shared tidbits of fire
service history from around the country. Robertson, retired
Maryland fire marshal, said Maryland volunteers took the lead
for the creation of the fire protection program at the
University of Maryland.
"It was a tough sell. It wasn't getting that
much support," he recalled. "There were possible conflicts of
interest, so the Maryland State Firemen's Association stepped
in. They were successful. Now, that program has influence all
over the world."
The idea for preserving fire service
disciplines isn't a new concept. A USFA study conducted in 2003
spelled the need for a repository.
"Given that the first organized fire
prevention and firefighting efforts began in North American in
1648 by Peter Stuyvesant in New Amsterdam (later to become New
York City), it's amazing that no such undertaking has been
established before," according to the report.
The document cover contains this from an
Arlington County, Va. Fire Department logbook on Sept. 11, 2001:
"Late Entry: Terrorists Bombed the Pentagon with a Commercial
Another order in flowing, cursive writing
reads: "All officers and soldiers are requested to use their
endeavors to prevent fires from spreading over the country..."
The order came on March 8, 1783 from Gen. George Washington.
These are the types of documents that the
group is trying to save.
Officers of the Heritage Hall project include
Coleman, president; Bill Killen, vice-president; Wayne Powell,
treasurer; James C. Robertson, secretary; Gary Frederick,
Directors are David White, Bobby Balta, Donald
Briggs, Ken Dungan and Rodney Slaughter.
For more information, visit the National Fire