Museum keeps history of Toledo Fire DivisionWritten by Christine A. Holiday | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The old No. 18 firehouse at 918 Sylvania Ave. near Lewis and Phillips avenues hasn’t been in action for nearly a quarter century. There have been no firefighters living there and no late-night fire calls to alarm the neighbors.
But the station has just as much to do with fire safety as the stations with three shifts of on-duty firemen and shiny trucks. Since 1984, it has been the home of the Toledo Firefighters Museum — founded with the purpose of preserving the history of the Toledo Fire Division and educating citizens about fire prevention and safety.
Fire buffs who visit the museum are rewarded with a million-dollar display of vintage fire-fighting equipment and memorabilia, including helmets, models of old rigs, an old alarm office and a watchman’s desk and tape register.
Retired Deputy Chief Robert Schwanzl is one of the volunteers who staff the museum, in addition to ”Fireman Freddy,” the fireman who works with the school groups who come to see the educational area. He said the museum is supported by payroll deduction contributions of 90 percent of active firefighters, and local building trade unions have contributed the labor necessary to build the museum.
”This is one of Toledo’s best-kept secrets,” he said. ”There is so much to see and learn here, and we have plans to expand. We encourage parents to bring their children to see the trucks and helmets.”
The chronological history of the TFD is shown in pictures and memorabilia. The pride and joy is the 1937 Neptune, Toledo’s first fire pumper. It took 20 men to pump the water from the Neptune, a hand-pulled and hand-operated pumper that could deliver 300 gallons of water per minute. A new addition to the collection is a renovated horse-drawn steamer dating from the late 1870s, which could deliver 800 gallons of water.
School children visit the museum for lessons on fire safety. They see the fire poles and the fire engines, but also visit Jed’s Bedroom, a true scale model of a second story bedroom. Children are taught how to respond to a fire in their homes — how to roll out of bed and feel the door for heat with the back of the hand. They learn about family safety plans and the importance of smoke detectors.
Volunteers organized the Firefighters Museum in 1976, as part of the City of Toledo’s celebration of America’s Bicentennial. The first display was housed in the Museum of Science at the Toledo Zoo, but the collection soon outgrew the space. The current location was opened in October 1984, and continues to operate Saturdays and Sundays from 12-4 p.m., and weekdays and evenings by appointment. Call (419) 478-3473 for information.