Ohioís Newest Fire Museum teaches children with humor

By John K. Nofzger, Curator, Toledo Firefighters Museum, Inc.
(Reprinted from the Spring, 1985 issue  of the Ohio Professional Fire Fighter)

Over here, a girl climbs out of a bedroom window.  Red lights flash overhead, the shrill sound of a smoke detector howls danger.  She is out of the window and on the roof, shouting for help, and waiting for rescue.

Over there, boys and girls respond to the clanging of a fire station gong, slide the pole, put on fire gear, and respond.  Help is needed now.

Whatís going on here?  A real fire?  Kids playing house?  No, all of these children are learning fire safety through participation in an ingenious exhibit created for the Toledo Firefighters Museum. 

Ohioís newest fire museum has been serving all area citizens since its opening last October (1984) during Fire Prevention Week by promoting Northwest Ohioís prominence in the history of fire fighting.  Exhibits and educational programs dedicated to all firefighters who risk their lives for public safety are used.  This unique local collection of fire history and memorabilia is now on view each Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. at 918 Sylvania Avenue in Toledo, weekdays and evenings by appointment only at (419) 478-FIRE.

The Toledo Firefighters Museum, Inc. was first displayed in 1976 as part of the city of Toledoís celebration of Americaís Bicentennial by a small collection at the Toledo Zoo.  The museum is a nonprofit organization, incorporated by the state of Ohio. 

The museum Board of Directors is composed of active and retired firefighters, as well as members of the business community, clergy, fire buffs, and local labor representatives.

It is often been said that if you donít know what you are doing, donít do it.  Had we, the members of the museum Board of Directors, followed that advice, the Toledo Firefighters Museum would not now exist.

Our first goal was to find a permanent home for Toledoís first fire engine, a Neptune, which came to our city in 1837.  This home was found in 1982 at our old Number 18 Fire Station, and we were off and running.  We then acquired a 1929 Pirsch pumper, as well as our shop-built 1936 Schecht ladder truck, three hose carts, and a 1948 Buffalo pumper.

No 18's

Newspaper albums, photos, and many related fire memorabilia were then added to the collection.  We then had the good luck to acquire an 1895 Ahrens Steamer from our good friends of the Leipsic Volunteer Fire Department for display each winter.

We were now able to display our entire collection for the first time, which is now valued at over one quarter million dollars, in one place.

On Friday, October 12, 1984, the Board of Directors was pleased to announce that the dreams and goals of many members, volunteers, supporters, and benefactors were now fulfilled.  We were open.

Our second goal was to teach fire safety through education.  Many greater Toledo deaths and injuries from fire could be prevented if people would plan emergency exits from their homes ahead of time and practice exit plans regularly.  We needed an exhibit to provide the opportunity for children to practice and plan exits from their homes in a hands-on manner.

To this end, we came up with our Jedís Bedroom exhibit and Fireman Freddyís Fire Station, in conjunction with Burger King Hot Spot House. 

Children need to routinely practice using emergency exits from their home.  In an emergency, individuals must be able to recall the actual motions that have been rehearsed.  The correct actions must be performed automatically.

Jedís room teaches children and adults how to roll out of bed to keep low in case of smoke.  They learn to feel the bedroom door with the back of the hand, and if the door is hot, do not open it.  They go to the window instead.  They can see that once they are outside, they should  never go back, and should call the fire department from a neighbor's phone.  This is a hands-on experience for them.

In our mock fire station, a child will slide down a fire pole, put on a firefighter's coat, boots, hat and mittens; tromp to a small fire truck and respond to a fire.

This will show the child that firefighters wear special clothes to help protect them against smoke, heat, and flames.  As the child tries on these clothes, it will show how they protect firefighters from danger.

The Burger King Hot Spot House, which stands four feet tall, highlights 16 hot spots that exist in many homes.  There are nine additional holiday and seasonal hazards that can be added in the appropriate time, such as Christmas, Fourth of July, Halloween, spring, summer, fall and winter.  A back panel is attached to the house which, with colorful pictures, gives additional information on escape planning from houses and apartments.

Many citizens have stepped forward to help us in reaching our goals.  Some of Toledoís largest corporate giants, as well as small business owners, are part of our family.  The building trades unions have contributed all the labor, which is no small figure.  Their contribution alone is worth $200,000, out of our $300,000 projected cost.  The Toledo firefighters are also doing their part with donations of $7,000 to date, as well as days of free labor.  Donations and pledges to date total $125,000.

We would like to take this opportunity to invite all Ohio professional firefighters to stop by and have a look, and please bring the kids, also.