The 11th anniversary of 9/11 calls us to remember the daily sacrifices of firefighters and other first responders.
The Hall of Flame Fire Museum in Phoenix is home to the National Firefighting Hall of Heroes, which features an exhibit honoring firefighters lost on 9/11. The hall honors American firefighters who’ve died in the line of duty or been honored for acts of heroism. It also includes a history of American volunteer, paid and wildland firefighters — complete with fire-related vehicles, mannequins donning fire gear and more.
The museum, which is located near Phoenix Municipal Stadium, houses nearly 90 fully restored pieces of fire apparatus dating from 1725 to 1969. Most are American but some hail from England, France, Austria, Germany or Japan. One gallery contains a fire engine that visitors can board, so children can pretend they’re racing toward a fire while sitting behind the steering wheel. This gallery also includes a theater where visitors can learn more about the history of the museum as well as the history of firefighting. Tall trophy cases lining two walls are filled with ornate speaking trumpets and fire helmets from around the world.
Museum exhibits paint a vivid picture of the history of firefighting as an exercise in problem solving. Firefighting techniques and equipment have evolved through the years as societies have changed and technology has advanced. We take modern firefighting tools for granted, but the museum is a rich reminder of the challenges faced by firefighters past and present. One gallery features a huge dispatch center equipped with audio recorders using reel-to-reel tape and clunky old land-line phones. Visitors strolling through the museum hear a live audio feed of incoming emergency calls.
A dedicated children’s area contains a place for birthday parties, fire safety presentations and such — as well as plenty of hand-on activities. There’s a fire pole children can climb up and slide down, a table topped with a large wooden Dalmatian dog puzzle, a child-sized fire engine with child-size turnouts and other protective gear, and a fire safety exhibit.
A safety house designed with the help of fire departments in Phoenix and Mesa includes a child’s bedroom and a combined living area/kitchen. Each has hazards, marked by signs explaining related fire-safety practices. The safety house is a fun, hands-on way to engage children in learning about electrical hazards, stove safety, safety ladders, smoke detectors, calling 911 and more. It’s also a reminder for parents to stay up to speed on fire escape plans, CO detectors, indoor sprinklers and other elements of home safety.
Museum staff members and volunteers are knowledgeable and friendly, and will happily show you around or provide you with a map of the museum. But the gift shop, through which visitors enter and exit the museum, has a “Guide to Exhibits” that runs about $5 and contains fascinating facts about the history and nature of firefighting, plus detailed explanations of the many firefighting vehicles and piece of equipment you’ll see during your visit. I got mine on the way out, but getting one ahead of time makes more sense. Keep it on hand as a fire safety reference after you’ve explored the museum, and let your kids use it when they need a nifty topic for a school report.
Families who visit the the Hall of Flame Museum on Sat., Oct. 27 between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. get free admission to the museum’s 14th annual “Fire House Fun Day,” which features free fire truck rides. Kids who wear costumes get free trick-or-treat goodie bags and the event also includes an auction. Take money along for food, games, the craft fair and the gift shop if you’d like to help support the museum’s volunteer and community outreach programs.
The Hall of Flame Museum is located near the southeast corner of Priest and Van Buren at 6101 E. Van Buren St. (turn south off Van Buren at the Salt River Project sign and find the museum on your right). Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $6 for adults and $5 for seniors (ages 62 and older). Student admission (ages 6-17) is $4, children ages 3-5 are $1.50 and kids under 3 get in free.
Learn more at hallofflame.org.