Posted by: Nancy
March 22, 2013
Aren’t most of us in awe of firefighters? They are truly heroes who often risk life and limb in the service of others. But how much thought do we give the equipment that is a crucial component in the huge task of extinguishing fires? A recent trip to The Hall of Flame certainly sparked my interest in the history of firefighting equipment and rekindled my admiration of the brave people who put themselves in peril to save lives and property.
Originally opened by George F. Getz, Jr. in Illinois in 1961, the Hall of Flame moved to Phoenix, along with the Getz family, in 1972. Now the Hall of Flame resides in Papago Park in an inconspicuous building that, from the outside, looks more like a large storage warehouse than a museum. Don’t be fooled by the unassuming exterior. Dismiss any preconceived ideas you might have about what a museum should look like and venture inside to discover 35,000 square feet containing six galleries full of fascinating firefighting history. The exhibits are lovingly maintained by 25 proud and dedicated volunteers who are active and retired fire fighters or spouses of firefighters.
You would expect to find such a grand collection of firefighting paraphernalia and memorabilia in an older, larger city like New York City, Chicago or Boston. But, how great it is (and maybe a little surprising) to have this remarkable collection in Papago Park. There’s a lot to see, so plan on spending some time and wear comfortable shoes. Thirty-five thousand square feet, almost an acre, is a lot of ground to cover. Here are a few highlights:
- Four galleries displaying 90 gleaming and fully restored pieces of firefighting apparatus used in the U.S., England, France, Austria, Germany and Japan from 1725 to 1969
- Over 400 helmets from the U.S, Great Britain, Germany, France and other countries
- The largest collection in the world of fire arm patches
- One gallery dedicated to wild land firefighting–the only exhibit of its kind in the United States
- Fire safety exhibits, games and activities for kids
- The National Firefighting Hall of Heroes honors firefighters who have died in the line of duty or who have been decorated for heroism. The exhibit includes photos and citations for American firefighters recognized for acts of heroism by the editors of Firehouse Magazine, a national journal of firefighting. On the walls are thousands of names of American fire fighters who have died in the line of duty since 1981.
- Visitors can also see an exhibit dedicated to firefighters and police officers who lost their lives in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. A computer database of 9,000 firefighters who have died in the line of duty since 1800 is available to visitors.
The Hall of Flame is located at 6101 E. Van Buren St. and is open seven days a week. You can enjoy the exhibits on your own or request a guided tour. The knowledgeable volunteers are always eager to give tours and are sometimes available without advance notice. However, it’s a good idea to call ahead to arrange for a guide. For more information, visit http://www.hallofflame.org/