A blazing good time at the Firefighters Hall and Museum

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April 9, 2013
By: Linda Koutsky
Linda Koutsky

Not only do they put out fires, but they rescue pets, arrive first on the scene at disasters, and are the subject of adoration from wide-eyed boys and girls. But what do any of us novices really know about firefighters?

You’ll learn plenty about the evolution of fire truck design and the daily life of a firefighter at the Firefighters Hall and Museum. This large museum (12,000 square feet) is filled with equipment, memorabilia and about a dozen full-size retired fire trucks! Climb aboard, get behind the giant wheel, and watch a large-screen video as you race to the scene. Both kids and adults can’t resist driving one of these big rigs.

Learn about the history of early pumpers and the first types of hook-and-ladder trucks. See the beautifully restored 1894 steam engine made by Waterous Fire Engine Company in St. Paul. Revolutionary in its time, it was considered state-of-the-art. It pumped 350 gallons a minute compared to today’s trucks that pump 1,500 gallons. Many different companies made engines. At the museum you’ll see a 1922 Ford Model-T triple combination pumper and a cute-as-a-bug 1975 Volkswagen-Branbridge. Shiny red paint, decorative pinstriping, and gleaming brass abounds! Antique car aficionados will find plenty to keep themselves entertained.

A requisite brass fireman’s pole takes center stage in a firehouse recreation filled with authentic artifacts, a captain’s desk, and a large-scale photo of men proud of their station. Have a seat at the table and feel what it’s like to wait for the bell.

Throughout the museum are cases filled with helmets and badges from around the world, displays of nozels, hoses, axes, and forcible entry tools; and the evolution of fire extinguisher design. The early extinguishers were copper and brass with beautiful raised lettering. One retired model was cleverly repurposed into a lovely table lamp available for sale in the gift shop.

In a small room toward the end of the exhibit space is “81 Minutes: After the Bridge Collapsed,” a series of oversized photos and video from the disaster. Firefighters were the first to arrive at the 35W bridge collapse and it took 81 minutes to get all the survivors off the bridge. The photos are amazing and shocking to see so large.

The final room at the museum is a hall lined with historic photos. The hall is also available for rent. It’s a great place for a reunion or a birthday party. What’s better than a little culture then a little party?!

Not many jobs have whole museums dedicated to them. But these men and women risk their lives for us on a daily basis. It’s nice to be able to appreciate what they do and learn more about their work. This little gem is worth your visit.

LUNCH BREAK: For a hot and spicy lunch stop at Adelita’s Mexican Restaurant (2405 Central Ave NE)

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