When you walk in the door of the Denver Firefighters Museum, you are immediately impressed by the majestic equipment meticulously arranged in the former firehouse. But the Denver Firefighters Museum is more than a beautifully laid out display of fire trucks, firefighting equipment, and artifacts.
It is an educational experience that takes you through the history of firefighting in Denver and elsewhere. Not only is firefighting dangerous, it is complex. And since the late 1800s, many innovations have been made to improve the efficacy of fire fighting apparatus and to improve the safety of the firefighters and victims.
Communications is the first emphasis in the museum. Originally, fire communication in Denver was by word-of-mouth. When the fire started, people were expected to assist in putting out the fire. Next came a bell that signaled the location of a fire by the number and sequence of the bell’s rings. In 1871, the city installed a fire hydrant system. When someone opened the hydrant, the drop in water pressure at the water plant signaled a fire. In the 1880s Julius Pearse encouraged the installation of The Gamewell Fire Alarm Telegraph. It remained in use until 1971 when it was replaced by a radio telegraph system.
That is a lot of detail, but those are some of the interesting bits of historical information you will learn at this museum.
LaFrance Fire Trucks
I have always thought that fire trucks are as resplendent as any vehicle there is. The museum has two marvelous examples on display: a 1942 American LaFrance Squad and a 1924 American LaFrance Engine. Other displays on the first floor are a watch desk (manned 24 hours a day, it is the heart of the fire station), a FDNY 86H Steam Fire Engine, and a large horse-drawn hose reel.
(The Denver Firefighters Museum needs your help. In May 2012, the museum’s 1953 Seagrave fire truck caught fire shortly after returning from being used in a funeral. Known as E04, the museum has owned the rig since 1999, and it is the first truck to be designated as a hearse for use in firefighter’s funerals. Its restoration won’t come cheap, so if you want to help please click here to make a donation.)
On the second floor, see how the firefighters lived and trained–it wasn’t and still isn’t easy. Tour the officer’s quarters, and the firefighter’s bedrooms. See and read informative displays about the largest fires in Denver’s history. You will see and learn the story of the iconic fire pole that firefighters used to improve their response times. Unfortunately, you will not experience the fun of sliding down one of them–something about visitor safety.
This is an interesting and engaging museum. Plan at least two hours for your visit as you will want to take the time to read the informative placards that accompany the exhibits. There is much to see and learn here, but it is also fun and entertaining. Like a good car show, you will want to just look at the impressive machinery that is used to fight fires as well as learn more about how it all came to be.