A simple but elegant old firehouse stands in downtown San Diego at the corner of Columbia Street and Cedar Street. Those who step inside are in for a very big surprise.
The San Diego Firehouse Museum today occupies what was once an active fire station–San Diego Fire Station No. 6. Located in Little Italy, this unique museum isn’t large, but it’s crammed with so much cool stuff and so much fascinating history, you could easily spend an hour enjoying the many exhibits. There are shiny red vintage fire engines, a steamer equipped with a huge boiler, antique hand pumpers, firefighting apparatus of every sort, helmets, badges, a big display of model vehicles, historical photographs . . . and just lots and lots of firefighting artifacts, dating as far back as the mid 1800s. Much of what you’ll see represents the history of firefighting in San Diego; other objects in the museum come from fire departments around the United States.
Here are some photos which I took during a recent visit. The volunteer on duty was very friendly and provided some interesting historical information. I learned that private events can be held in the old firehouse, and that kids love having birthday parties among all the fire engines. Museum admission is only 3 dollars for adults and 2 dollars for children and seniors. Quite a bargain!
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I saw on the news this morning that a special event was being held to remember the firemen and other heroes who responded with selfless courage during the 9/11 attack, thirteen years ago. Firefighters, wearing full gear, would climb ninety stories of stairs, simulating a climb of the World Trade Center towers shortly after they were struck.
My meandering Sunday walk around downtown started late, and by the time I was near the Convention Center, it was early afternoon. But I figured I’d swing around to the tall Hilton hotel to see if the event was still underway.
The stair climbing was over. But many firefighters and emergency responders from San Diego and the surrounding region were still in the park in front of the thirty story Hilton, enjoying food and fellowship.
I personally can’t imagine climbing the equivalent of three tall Hilton hotel buildings wearing all that awkward, extremely heavy gear! These heroes of today, with all of their might, honored the memory of those who endangered their own lives trying to save others.
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If you’re ever in the Little Italy neighborhood in downtown San Diego, you might want to check out the small but jam-packed Firehouse Museum.
Shiny red fire trucks, interesting historical photos, old fire fighting apparatus, memorabilia and even Smokey Bear are on display. And excited kids can climb into one of the cool fire engines!
This sign by the sidewalk invites tourists and passersby to take a peek into the firehouse.
I took a photo from outside, aiming left.
And then the above photo aiming right.
The next pic was taken on a later day, in the early morning when the museum was still closed…
A plaque appeared on the museum’s exterior in mid to late 2015!
The plaque includes this fascinating information:
In the workshop on this site some of America’s most significant fire service innovations were created by the specialty trade-skilled firefighters who worked here, including the world’s first gas engine powered fireboat, the Bill Kettner. In 1963 the National Fire Protection Association declared the national standard thread the official fire hose thread of the United States of America. The machine which enabled this federal legislation was invented here six years earlier by inventor and battalion chief Robert Ely. The common thread allowed thousands of American firefighters to connect their fire hoses together, allowing them to work as one. As a result, countless lives and priceless amounts of property and the environment have been saved.
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