The New York City Fire Museum

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The New York City Museum has pretty a history owing to its starting place all the way to the presently fond location. According to the journal “About Our Museum,” primarily the museum has a mission of gathering and, preserving the historic and cultural heritage of the New York fireplace service. It is also objectively involved in furnace prevention services, education on the safety of fireplace and safety of young children. The museum is run via the Fire Department of the New York City under its structures. Originally, the museum was the Fire College Museum opened in 1934 on Long Island. Later on, it used to be a move to Spare Bay, where a series of firefighting had been located in Manhattan. This was in 1959. It remained here as more collections were being gathered from across the New York City until they could not be accommodated in the firehouse at 100 Duane Street.

Expansion in the volume of the collections that were gathered fuelled the search for a more accommodative location for the collections to be held. A memorabilia of fire collections by Home Insurance Company in 1981 was the source of this inevitable need to store the collections in a more accessible place. A group that called itself, the Friends of the New York City Fire Department volunteered to raise funds for the reconstruction of the former offices of Engine company no. 30 that existed in 1904 in Spring Street. The NYC museum sits here with a very diverse collection of firefighting equipment dated as early as 1600’s (Conway, 1993).

This museum is currently estimated to beckon over 40, 000 visitors every year from all over the world and by large number America. It hosts lots of children to learn about fire safety and the need to know firefighting techniques. Retired firefighters often offer the educational knowledge on firefighting to children who visit the place. Recently, in 2015, this museum received a charter from New York Department of Education as recognition for the cultural and historical importance it holds in the US. It portrays even the bravery of fire fighters in the country, who responded to rescue the tragic 9/11 bombing at the World Trade Centre. It also communicates the changes in fire fighting historically from the era of bucket brigades to the modernized fire fighting abilities of the FDNYC and other engines across the US.

The New York City Fire Museum and the FDNYC

Perhaps, when we think about the NYC fire museum, we should, at first, be asking ourselves about the Fire Department of the New York City (FDNYC), its history, organization, major roles it played in its history of operation and its mode of operations. Starting from the history of 9/11, the Fire Department of New York City, was pragmatically a small unit to handle that fire. Basically, FDNYC focuses on rescuing life and property. On the famous 9/11 fire, a Battalion 1 chief saw the American aircraft crash the northern tower of the WTC and immediately alerted a multi-alarm incidence through radio call. All off-duty officers and those retired from FDNYC were recalled to job to assist in the rescue mission, (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, 2002).

The operations of this department have been structured to take care of emergency response operations, rescue missions, rolling out a program of public education on firefighting and assessing and establishing areas with the need for fire management skills. As mentioned earlier, both at the museum and out in the field retired fire-fighters actively engage in educating the public about firefighting.

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Composition and operations of FDNYC

Operationally, the department responds to biological, radioactive and chemical dangers. It also has paramedic unit that gives first aid and refers victims of tragedy to hospital. It has its operation spread over the five boroughs of New York City (Robert, 1995). The department was originally started in 1648, and it has since, progressed in handling firefighting processes. It consists of 9 divisions with a total of 53 battalions and 255 stations across New York State. It is the largest firefighting department in the US and the second largest in the world. Its headquarters are at 9 Metrotech Centre in Downtown, Brooklyn. It has a fire academy located on Randall Island.

The mode of operations is that there are three Bureau of Fire Communication offices that respond to all alarms. These bureau offices receive the alarms and dispatch them to the nearest outstation. It is organized in paramilitary structure with two executive arms. One arm is headed by civilian fire commissioner, and the other arm is headed by the chief of the department who is responsible for all operations. The civilian fire commissioner is the head of the department. The museum thus receives collections from this municipal department which runs the museum. It departments structure and operation since 1648 is part of the rich history which is stored in the museum (

Exhibitions at the NYC Museum

There are several permanent exhibitions that are displayed in the museum. These exhibitions are attached to some historical events that the American people must know and learn. Being a museum that deals with fire fighting since the British Empire colonization of the US, it definitely has a culture and deep history for the newer generations of Americans. It has both art and artifacts dating back to the 18th century. These works of art are the basis of our understanding of the life before the sophisticated modern equipment in fire fighting.

a. Firefighting on parade

Popularly, parades were known to be public entertainment. The first such kind of entertainment was on the July 4th, 1824 when volunteer firemen became prominent. Categorically, the fire volunteer companies proudly appeared in the banners during festivities conspicuously exhibiting their uniforms and the machines they were using. The exhibition had basically four features that were displayed in parade form with the Steinway hose carriage. The machines are surrounded by artifacts such as the Brooklyn volunteer fire department banner (Conway, 1993).

Other celebratory decorative items include the paintings that are masked on wood panels, the plaques that were useful in embellishing apparatus in the parade, the lanterns. The lanterns were used alongside torches to light the parades. There is also ribbons, belts, halts, and helmets. These were some of the garments that were worn during the fire fighting exercises. Their set up, as if in the parade is populous and highly attractive. And probably the most fascinating of all parade items is the hand-pulled double-decker pumper preserved by the veteran firemen’s Association of New York City.

b. The collection of romance of firefighting

Practically, like the Journal, “About Our Museum” indicates, there lacked engine operated machines and horses to pull the chariots. This meant that volunteer groups use human muscle power to pull the firefighting machines to the scene of incidence. There is a lot of art that is embedded on wood paintings that portray that kind of operation. These pieces of art are found on the second floor of the museum. Apart from firefighting, these volunteers groups were also social groups. Members of each social group often visited each other to showcase their apparatus and firefighting techniques. They also wore their uniforms during the visits as part of the show-off. Their prowess in putting out the fire was accompanied by pride, and that encompassed the so-called romance of firefighting. The volunteers also took part in social events across New York City, and they were highly acknowledged for their service to the New York citizens. They also showcased their techniques in social gathering as part of the municipal's most active groups across the whole US.

c. Fire insurance marks

The presence of insurance marks on the museum is a clear indication of how serious fire incidences were in American history. There are over 2000 emblems that were used in advertising for insurance covers displayed on the second floor. The collections act as evidence of the evolution of insurance industry in New York State and the US at large. The current coverage of fire insurance could be pegged on improvements made from these initial covers is history. The marks are partly displayed due to lack of space. Most of the exhibits are stored for temporary, future and academic uses. Fire insurance marls can be thought of as a preservation of an earlier civilized society. Some of the collections in the museum date back to 1650's, a feature that indicates early civilization of the American society during the colonial era in the country (Peter, Warren & Jack, 1975).

d. The fire apparatus

One other fascinating stand is the fire apparatus displayed on the first floor of the museum. The initial apparatus used for fire extinguishing were pulled by horses. Then it came to the steam engine technology. This was a well thought of development, and the firefighters were confident with machines since water did not pose dangers of explosion. With the setting in of modernization and industrial revolution in America, gasoline operated machines were developed. However, FDNYC became a lot more reluctant in adopting the new machines until later when they were proven to be more effective.

This led to a subsequent acknowledgment of the new machines by FDNYC and soon after they began to phase out the old technology apparatus. That transition from hand pulled apparatus, to the horse-drawn, to the motorized machines has been clearly arranged. Peter, Warren & Jack, (1975) the mostly viewed apparatus are the LaFrance steam engine of 1901, which was pulled by horses and the Van Blerck tractor, which was operated by use gasoline power, of 1912 plus the American LaFrance gasoline pumper acquired in 1921. The steam engine apparatus was powered by coal. A fascinating scenario came in when a hybrid kind of machine was produced by combining both the steam engine apparatus and a gasoline-powered tractor. The apparatus was pulled to the site of incidence by the tractor, instead of the horses that had been in use previously.

e. Fire tools and uniforms

This stand represents the 30-year evolution of firefighting gear used by FDNYC. On the first floor, mannequins have been set to display the garment by being dressed on them. The gear includes the clothing and breathing equipment used then by firefighters. There are three mannequins in the display representing garments used in 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s. The three are also representatives of the members of truck companies. They are surrounded by some of the tools that were used to force way into buildings. The most popular tool was the Halligan tool.

It was a multi-useful tool used for a number of functions in paving the way for firefighters. The displays exhibit a revolution of protective gears. The 1970’s was characterized by turnout coats (Conway, 1993). Compared to today’s bunker gear, there is a great improvement towards the convenience of firefighting tools. The exhibition gives visitors an opportunity to understand the history of firefighting in the US. The protective helmet has had no noticeable changes from the 1970’s to the presently used ones.

f. The 9/11 memorial

The September 11, 2001, tragedy from the bombing of the Twin Towers in the World Trade Centre went down with 343 heroes from FDNYC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention). The memories of these 343 were preserved in the museum and their remembrance day held every year. In two adjacent rooms, a sky-lit tribute has been preserved. The rooms contain a black marble and the pictures of the heroes engraved on tile memorial. There are also the tools and other recovered items displayed in the rooms. These tools were used during the rescue mission. Another section contains a video and computer resources that are used to display all the information related to the incident. From this computer station, the biographies of the heroes including their other pictures are stored and can be accessed. There is also a chronicle giving the timeline of events as they happened during that day. The memorial was designed by Jude Amsel.

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Account of the equipment used by FDNYC

The fire department of New York City used a range of equipment in the course of their operations. The equipment was either used for finding their way into the blazing part or were protective. Some of the most popularly used equipment are discussed below.

1. The carriages

The first pumping engine acquired by FDNYC was in in 1731. This was a man pulled engine which firefighter used across Brooklyn in New York City. They required, like Peter et al., (1975) notes a well-coordinated pulling to the fire scene. An improvement to this kind carriages was the horse-drawn pumper. The pumper was operated by steam engines but drawn to the incident site by horses. Afterwards, a hybrid of firefighting apparatus was set up using a tractor to pull the pumpers. However, the pumpers remained to be steam-engine operated till later when there was an advancement in technology. The gasoline operated tractors continued to pull the pumpers. The pumpers were also decorated to represent the pride of FDNYC at the time.

2. The engines

Squad 1 of the FDNYC was at engine 59 stationed in Harlem in 1955. Then, it was moved at Ladder 58 in 1972 in the Bronx. It continued to operate and was now engine 45 in 1975 and finally disbanded a year later. Squad 1 operations were reintroduced in Brooklyn in 1977 at 788 Union Street. This new station had been occupied by engine 269 that closed due to financial constraints. Later on, more engines were set up as companies. The company 41, which existed before was restructured to be a squad company. The operations of squad 1 engine, include responding in its three due to assignments and also as a squad company in cases of fire and all types of emergencies across Brooklyn (Peter et al., 1975).

3. The Halligan tool case

It was the most versatile tool that the department has ever had during its operations from 1600’s to mid-1800. This tool was uniquely made for firefighting. It had many predecessors, including the Claw and Kelly tools with a functionality of forcefully entering the fire scene. The Halligam tool has been improved into the current Ziamatic and Pro-Bar which are made in the original design of the Halligan. The tool could easily break windows and open doors to allow access.

The Museum as a Public Resource

The New York fire museum has been instrumentally used as a resource in the New York City and across the world. It holds many activities within its premises as discussed below.

a. Fire safety tours

The infamous museum has held head high for its extensive education capability. Students from across the New York and the US, in general, have been flocking to this museum to take lessons on how to handle fire incidences as first aid. That alone has practically helped in minimising casualties in case of fire break.

b. Hosting of event

A number of American social groups have shown a lot of interest in holding fundraising events in the museum. The third floor of the museum is well designed for hosting events such as wedding and birthday parties. This means that it is not confined to who can actually rent the place. The loft is made of a hardwood floor with well-furnished kitchen with a carrying capacity of about 175 seated persons or some 300 standing persons. The museum offers free viewing of the lower floors’ collections for the person holding the event. Visitors and event holders have expressed the great experience they have got from the museum.

c. Online store for memorabilia

The New York City Fire Museum has a very wide range of collections. As noted earlier, the museum has collections dating back to the 1600’s when practically, the department running it began. For this reason, space to keep all arts, artifacts, and apparatus is a challenge. This has called for an online catalog if one wants to view all the collections of the museum. Recall that some memorabilia have lacked space and are only used for studies or temporary exhibitions (Conway, 1993).


In conclusion, the visit to the museum was extremely educative. The information learned is extremely invaluable on firefighting and on knowing the history of American firefighting. It also plays a big role in reminding Americans of the sacrifices made by heroes in the past in saving lives of fellow American citizens. I would highly recommend that Americans pay a visit to the museum. The exhibitions in the first and second floor are part of the journey the Fire Department of New York City has traveled through historical times. Since life is dynamic and there is persistent growth in science and technology, new firefighting equipment shall always be produced. The recommendation, in this case, is that there is need to keep updating the exhibitions.

The collections should also be grouped following the order of their evolution over time. I would also recommend that the department advertises the museum more in both audio-visual media and the internet. The museum has too much to offer to interested parties ranging from informative facts on firefighting in the infamous New York City to events hosting.

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“About Our Museum”. New York City Fire Museum. Retrieved May 23, 2012.

Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. (2002). Injuries and Illnesses Among New York City Fire Department Rescue Workers After Responding to the World Trade Centre Attacks. Journal of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 51(1-5). Website:

Conway, W., Fred (1993). Discovering America’s Fire Museum. FBH Publishers

Peter K., Warren W., & Jack H. (1975). Determining the relation between Fire Engine Travel, Times and Travel Distances in New York City. New York City-Rand Institute. New York, 23(4), 614-627.

Robert W. K., (1995). Introduction to Fire Protection and Emergency Services. 5th Edition. ISBN-13: 978-1439058428.

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