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Posted by on Sep 21, 2017 in Firehouse Facts, Historical and Museums |

How to Arrange a Firehouse Tour for Children and Adults

Fire station tours are an excellent opportunity for public relations and public fire education for the fire department. A Firefighter is involved in the business of saving lives, whether it entails response to a fire after it has occurred or, more importantly, before it occurs. The truth is that we’re far more likely to save kids’ lives through fire safety education and the knowledge of stopping or taking proper action during a fire incident than by the actual rescue. A fire station tour is a great opportunity to teach valuable life safety skills to visitors and for children and adults to learn that firefighters do so much more than fight fires.

Make Sure You have Enough Chaperones

When you bring children into the fire department, keep in mind that they are not maintained to be child-friendly. The kids will need close supervision, so that they don’t wander off on their own to inspect a dangerous area. Ensure children understand that in the case of an emergency, firefighters will have to leave the station even if a tour is in progress.

Helpful Tips for Children Learned at a Visit to the Fire Station:

Learn 911    

Children should be able to dial 911 and say their address and full names as soon as they can speak. Kids quickly pick up technological skills, so pushing phone buttons to them is second nature! Make them understand that they only ever call that number if somebody is in danger, including if they see a fire.

Practice Fire Drills

Have you had a fire drill in your own home? Do your kids know what to do in case there is a fire in the house? Ask the kids to push the test button on the smoke detectors, so that they can learn what they sound like and what measures to take if they ever hear that sound. After your kids realize what the alarm noise is, they need to practice exiting the house as quickly as possible.

Arrange a Meeting Place

It’s important to have a pictorial presentation of your family’s fire escape plan. Indicate two ways to escape from all rooms and determine your chosen meeting place if everyone needs to evacuate. It can be any place that is far enough from the house. Remember to schedule dates for the family fire drills throughout the year so that everyone knows what to do.

No Hiding

One of the most helpful recommendations for children is to NEVER hide if there is a fire. Instead, they should get out right away if there is smoke or fire. Children should not go behind furniture, in the closet, under the bed, etc.  They must understand that they should never go back into the house if there’s a fire, even for a favorite toy or pet.

Exposure to Firefighters in Fire Suits

In a fire, it’s important for the kids to run towards the firefighter, and not run away from them and hide. This can be learned through regular tours to the fire station.  Children should know how firefighters look in their full gear.  The firefighter’s “space alien” look can be scary and intimidating for kids. The more exposure children have to firemen and what they look like, the less likely they will be frightened should they ever have to see one in your home during a fire rescue.

Practice Stop, Drop & Roll

Little kids love to practice action steps and memorize patterns, so this is a simple one to make into a fun game for their safety. Teach kids that if their clothes catch fire, they should: Stop! Drop to the ground! Cover their faces and Roll until the fire is out. This technique should be practiced often so that it will become an automatic response in an emergency situation.

Please be aware of the following for fire station tours:

  • Recommended group size is thirty individuals.
  • Children must be at least five years old.
  • A release of liability form must be completed for each visitor.
  • All fire stations are on call status, even during the station tour. Therefore, if an emergency is received at the station, the tour may be canceled early to respond to the emergency call.
  • Visits are a maximum of one hour.
  • Transportation must remain available on site as tours may be canceled or interrupted on short notice because of emergency call outs.
  • These tours are meant to be educational in nature. Consequently, facilities to accommodate food, drinks or parties are not offered.
  • Visitors will not be allowed to mount or handle equipment any fire apparatus unless supervised and approved by fire personnel.

Additional Tips

If you there is a fire pole at the station, it may be fun to let the children see one of the firefighters slide down it. Under no circumstances should you let the kids do the same. I’m sure I don’t have to explain why.

Formal tours should be scheduled in advance and coordinated through the appropriate office (Training, administrative, planning, etc.) whenever possible, and groups should be limited to a manageable size if a tour must be terminated due to an emergency response. During times of elevated security threat levels, or immediately following an incident where hose and tools need to be tested, inventoried, and cleaned, firehouse tours should be rescheduled to a later time and date.

Conclusion

Fire departments often hold open houses as part of their community education programs. If a private tour cannot be planned, ask when the next open house event is scheduled. These are often more fun than privately arrange visits as they last longer and there are more firefighters on hand to answer questions. The community events mean that there is more firefighting equipment available for the public to look at. The scheduled open houses are also more reliable since arrangements have already been made for other fire departments in the area to act in response to distress calls and the trip is less likely to be canceled.

 

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Posted by on Jun 12, 2017 in Firehouse Facts, Historical and Museums |

History of the Fire Pole

Admittedly, nothing wins the spirit of a fire station than the idea of firefighters sliding down a fire pole to rush to an emergency and save lives and property. In an occupation where every second counts, the fire pole has given firefighters that crucial edge in response time for over a century now.

Firefighters commonly have living areas on the upper floors of fire stations.  When an emergency call comes in, they have to move down to the trucks as fast as they can. In the early days, sliding chutes or spiral staircases were popular, but not exceptionally fast. The fire pole, on the other hand, is a very fast way to get downstairs and it helps firefighter to speed up their response to emergencies. To use a fire pole, a firefighter interlocks his/her arms and legs around the pole and uses his/her legs to manage the speed of the descend.

Did you know that firefighters save about twenty-five seconds in response time by sliding down a fire man’s pole to respond to a distress call? Solid evidence indicates that sliding down a pole is faster than using inefficient spiral stair cases or sliding chutes. According to the National Fire Protection Association, the first pole was set up in New York in April 1878. In a typical fire station, firefighting horses and wagons (and later fire trucks) are on the first floor while the upper floors are for sleeping and recreation.

David Kenyon of Chicago’s Engine Company 21 invented the fire pole to help firefighters quickly reach the ground floor. Before the fire pole was invented, firefighters were solely dependent on inefficient spiral staircases or sliding chutes. Kenyon realized the distinct transportation method when firefighter George Reid slid down the wooden pole typically used for transporting hay to the hayloft. David Kenyon managed to convince the chief of the fire department to have poles installed in all fire stations.

 

Facts about Fire

  • Did you know that firefighters respond to an alarm of a fire somewhere in the United States every sixteen seconds?
  • More than four thousand Americans die fire-related deaths in the United States. Most fires could have been prevented by practicing proper fire safety and having fire alarms.
  • Did you know that more than sixty firefighters die annually in the line of duty?
  • Believe it or not, candles caused more about a thousand home fires and eighty home fire deaths between 2009 and 2013. They were also responsible for nine hundred injuries and three million in property damage.
  • Did you know that cooking is ranked as the leading cause of fires in the home? In fact, four of every ten home fires start in the kitchen.
  • Fire related incidents are potentially devastating, but fortunately, they’re easy to prevent, especially if you are aware of the most common fire hazards and take steps to combat them
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Posted by on Dec 17, 2016 in Historical and Museums |

Haunted Firehouses

Fire houses contain so much history, not just of the numerous and daily heroic acts of those that work there perform but of the buildings themselves. Many fire stations around the country enjoy transforming their buildings into haunted houses to raise funds around Halloween. This also elevates awareness and support from the community members about their local firehouse.

But there are a handful of fire stations around the United States that are haunted the entire year, and not as a way to drum up support and entertain the masses. Here’s a list of ten stations that have consistently experienced signs of the paranormal.

First on the list is Chesapeake Beach Volunteer Fire and Rescue Station number 4. Located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, fire fighters working there reported false alarms, the truck sirens spontaneously sounding, and even the truck doors closing of their own accord. The pranks were attributed to a fallen fire fighter named Benjamin Bishop who perished in the 1970’s. Even when the station relocated less than a mile away old Ben decided to tag along and continue ringing those false alarms.

Station No. 1 in Denver, Colorado makes number two on the list. Tom, an old horse rigger at the 1909 station, enjoyed making printer paper fly and ringing the fire bells at random. A psychic was brought in who identified the ghost of Caleb. He was buried under the part of the building that is the supply cabinet. “Caleb’s closet” was soon known for the inability of the concrete floor to never set properly no matter who tried. The station is now a museum.

Chicago has it’s own haunted station named Fire Engine Company 107. The mystery at this location surrounds a questionable hand print. Fire fighter Frank Leavy was washing the station windows in 1924 when upon laying his hand on the glass had a premonition about his own death. That very same afternoon he and eight others died in an office building fire. Eerily his hand print remained on the window he had been cleaning. In spite of determined efforts (including a professional cleaner) the hand print remained. Not until a paperboy accidentally broke the window on the exact 20th anniversary of Frank’s death was the pane of glass replaced.

The fourth station on the list is also in Illinois. Fire Station No 3 in Frankfort has friendly spirits. Investigated formally by the Ghost hunters and A&E Paranormal Cops the ghost was found to belong to Erwin Yunker who died of a heart attack in 1996. Now Erwin crosses in front of fire fighters watching TV, closes the garage doors for the fighters, casts dark shadows over the sleeping fire fighters and has been seeing going in and out of ambulances. Never causing harm, the employees have just learned to peacefully coexist with the spirit.

Woodard Bloxom was a fire captain at Station No 9 in El Paso, Texas who died fighting a warehouse fire across the street in 1934. He still feels a duty to the station apparently because he’s been known to give a heads-up to the crew before the fire alarm rings. The bay door opens or the lights suddenly go on right before the dispatch center calls in a fire.

Even new buildings are susceptible to the paranormal. Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s Engine House 35 was built on the grounds of an old mausoleum which contained 999 people. They were relocated to a cemetery nearby but the Engine House was quickly dubbed the Crypt House. Popcorn flew off the stove, lights shut off leaving the entire station in the dark, and the water inexplicably turns cold. It doesn’t help that the old mausoleum once contained three victims of the unfortunate Titanic.

Lastly, Long Beach’s Engine Company No 12 is referred to as the “Ghost House” by the fire fighters because of one John Makemson. A friendly fire fighter soul who died of natural causes after retirement just couldn’t bear the thought of leaving his beloved career. He’s been known to move objects around and help the current fire fighters find lost articles of clothing. Another entity might be lingering there as well however. A fire fighter’s wife claimed a voice introduced himself as “Smokey” and others claimed to see both a grey and a white form walk through the walls and utter blood curdling screams.

Countless other stations have also reported similar disturbances. Charleston, NC; Brockport, NY; Marlborough, MA; Eau Claire, WI; and West Feliciana, LA have all also reported sly encounters with ghosts, spirits and unexplained phenomena.

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Posted by on Dec 4, 2016 in Historical and Museums |

Firehouse Traditions

Where do some traditional aspects of fire houses stem from? A fireman’s pole? Dalmatian dogs? Pushing a new apparatus in by hand? And bagpipes? Of course every fire house has it’s own traditions and ceremonies to boost moral and create teamwork, but how did some of these originate?

Let’s start with the fireman’s pole, or sliding pole. It was invented in Chicago by David Kenyon in 1878. Firemen quartered on the second floor, while the horses, wagons and gear remained on ground level. Until then firemen used a spiral staircase to descend to their trucks, (horses couldn’t climb them) but that just wasn’t fast enough during an alarm. As legend goes, a coworker of Kenyon’s slid down a wooden pole intended to haul hay into the firehouse. What probably started off as a lark quickly became obviously effective. Kenyon persuaded his chief to install a pole for the men and cut a necessary hole in the ceiling. His station was often the first to arrive at a fire after the pole was installed, and the jokes from other stations ceased. However after so many decades of service, poles may be slowly phased out of modern firehouses due to safety concerns.

Dalmatians are quintessentially linked to firehouses even though they are rarely seen around stations nowadays. Back when fire carts were horse drawn, Dalmatians would run alongside them or under the cart axles. Apparently Dalmatians and horses have a natural affinity toward each other. Dalmatians were handy when a fire alarm went off in the station. Their loud barks would alert the people outside that the fire wagon would soon need the area clear. The dogs would defend the horses against other animals who might spook them during their race to the fire. And being canine buddies to the horses, they could keep their large friends calm when close to the flames. And any would-be thieves of unattended fire equipment would have to contend with a loyal dog-guard first.

A tradition still widely adhered to is the ‘push-in’ of a new apparatus (truck). Of course when horse drawn pump carts were employed, it was much easier to disconnect the horses and have the firemen push the carts backwards into the station. Tradition reigns still, and even with motorized engines many fire stations like to keep the tradition of pushing in their new apparatus in a show of unity and pride. Which is no small feat considering each truck weights between 19 and 30 tons!

And lastly, bagpipes. Most often displayed during the solemn funeral ceremonies of fallen fire fighters, this tradition stems from the Irish and Scottish. In the 1880s Irish immigration surged in the United States but so did prejudice. Many job opportunities were closed to Irish immigrants, and one of the only jobs they could secure was fire fighting. Being a dangerous and dirty job, many fire fighters fell in the line of duty. Their fellow Irish fire fighters honored them with a typical Irish funeral complete with bagpipes. Soon families of non-Irish firemen would request the solemn bagpipes for their heroes as well.

Tradition creates community, unity, and pride. It’s no wonder the honorable job of fire fighting has sustained these traditions over the decades.

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Posted by on Nov 22, 2016 in Firehouse Re-use, Historical and Museums |

Richmond Fire Station Restaurant

If you ever find yourself in Richmond, Virginia and you also have an interest in old fire houses, definitely check out the Station 2 Restaurant on Main Street. The converted Engine Company 2 fire station, built in 1899, still has the original red folding garage doors intact. They are beautifully preserved and freshly painted and beackon all visitors to come in and see more. This station was in service until 1962 when a more modern one was built to serve the city.

While you wait for your burgers and beers to be delivered (the restaurant’s specialties – although they offer a wide selection), you can learn a little history of the firehouse from the menu and take a closer look at the themed decorations on the walls. Old photographs, helmets, fire fighter’s pants and jackets, old fire extinguishers, axes, hammers, and other paraphernalia adorn the exposed brick walls in a classy but not cluttered look.

As for the restaurant’s menu, the burgers live up to the reputation. Expect a variety of hamburger toppings and tastes, a featured burger of the month, craft beers, gluten free bun options, veggie burgers and salads. Not to mention the creative alcoholic milkshakes the bar can make you! Fear not, this is a kid-friendly restaurant complete with high chairs and a kid’s menu. The hours are welcoming, as they are open for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. They also cater and do carry-out.

No firehouse is complete without a canine companion, and this is no exception. While not a real, living typical Dalmatian, there a couple works of art in the shape of a posed dogs. One has the restaurant’s “2” painted on his head, along with some mouthwatering paintings of burgers and fries. This little guy is out in the open and will greatly entertain the younger patrons who dine here.

For a good old fashioned way to pass the time, there is a rope dangling from the ceiling with a small metal ring attached to the end. Adults and children alike will soon become obsessed with trying to swing the rope toward the wall where a hook is placed, waiting to catch the ring. Don’t be fooled, this innocent pre-internet game is infinitely more frustrating than it seems it ought to be!

If playing chess in a historic firehouse, hanging out with the Beard League (you read that right), or playing trivia is up your alley, then stop in at Station 2 during one of their regularly scheduled event nights.

Station 2 celebrated it’s 5 year anniversary August 2016, and it continues to go strong. It’s definitely one of Richmond’s gems.

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Posted by on Nov 9, 2016 in Historical and Museums |

Firehouse and Fire Fighting Museum in Ponce, Puerto Rico

When a traveler says they are going to visit Puerto Rico, this typically infers that they will tour the traditional hot spots. Old San Juan, the Yunque Rainforest, Arecibo radio telescope, zip lining, and of course the beach. While off the typically beaten tourist path, the southern city of Ponce has a special surprise for lovers of fire house and fire fighting history. You’ll have to rent a car to travel there, but the route from San Juan is straightforward and worth it if you have a little extra time to venture beyond the over trodden tourist areas of Puerto Rico’s north and east.

Ponce is Puerto Rico’s largest city outside of the San Juan metropolitan area. Most cities in the country have a plaza in the middle, and Ponce’s is complete with fountains, a large traditional church, and the Parque de Bombas. Parque means park and Bomba means fire station. This building, which was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1984, is a striking presence in the Ponce plaza. It is by far one of the more interesting buildings in the country.

Built in 1882, it functioned as the city’s predominant fire station for nearly one hundred years. Since it is Puerto Rico’s first fire station on the island, the city of Ponce has taken it’s upkeep and historical relevance seriously. The care and attention is evident as it is one of the region’s most toured sites.

In the 1880s, fire fighters employed hand-pumped fire fighting wagons pulled by horses. They needed a building to store them in. The building was erected to coincide with a large fair Ponce was hosting in 1882, and the first brigade of fire fighters were employed there in February of 1883. This is why the year 1883 is inscribed above the main door of the museum instead of 1882 when the building was built.

The outward appearance of the building is especially notable. Constructed out of wood (nowadays most buildings in Puerto Rico are constructed out of more durable concrete), the Moorish and Gothic Victorian inspired architecture is painted in vibrant black and red stripes. This feature is what grabs the tourist’s eye first and foremost, as it contrasts completely with the modest church behind it. The colors were picked to represent the city, coinciding with the red and black Ponce city flag and coat of arms.

Officially closing as a fire station in 1990, the bomberos, or fire fighters in English, would often give complimentary tours to curious visitors. It officially became a museum the very same day it closed as an operating station.

The open layout of the ground floor of the museum has antique fire trucks and wagons on display, which let the visitor imagine riding on the open benches racing to a fire. The interior of the building is as colorful as the outside, while also integrating elaborate decorative patterns on the walls. Fire hoses adorn the rafters and detailed iron work plays in the railings on the stairs. There are balconies inside the museum on either end, which originally served as look out towers for the fire fighters. More information is available on the second level complete with portraits of firefighters, homage to the heroes of the tragic 1883 and 1899 “El Polvorin” fires, and old helmets. The only down side to this museum is that there is little airflow and no air conditioning, so the upstairs can get stuffy. But since the size is small and the complete visit can be short, it’s not much of a problem.

There is always a bilingual attendant to answer questions and provide additional information. Street parking is relatively easy, and if visited close to Christmas there might be a festive treat of extravagant lights on the building. The Parque de Bombas has to be one of the most unique fire stations in the whole world as is not to be missed by fire station enthusiasts.

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