The Harrisonburg Fire Museum is located on the 3rd floor of the Public Safety Building, in the heart of downtown.
Artifacts on display at the museum include uniforms throughout the years, tools of the trade such as axes, gloves, helmets, masks, oxygen tanks, respirators, “lost man” locators, and personal radios.
The museum also holds donated medals, citations, and letters of commendation. Old telegraphic alarms are also displayed dramatically underscoring the differences in a pulled alarm and broken circuit of yesteryear and the 911 of today.
Some of the most fascinating items at the museum are the historic photographs of famous fires, local buildings, and the brave firefighters working amidst the flames. More importantly, the museum provides “a behind the scenes look” at some of the community’s bravest citizens, according to the Harrisonburg & Rockingham County Visitors Guide.
According to the Harrisonburg, VA government site, an exact history of how and when the community first founded a dedicated department is unknown. Some general organizational attempts followed what has come to be known as the “Great Christmas Fire” of 1868 that destroyed many downtown buildings. Leather bucket brigades and other means of physically transporting water from city and private wells to a fire were organized, although they were primitive and often sadly ineffective.
Following yet another destructive Christmas fire in 1870 – the largest blaze in the history of the community – Harrisonburg governmental officials finally began the steps to purchase a professionally constructed “pumper.” A second hand pumper christened Rescue was located in Richmond, VA and delivered to Harrisonburg via a stagecoach company.
Rescue was delivered to Harrisonburg and the city’s first official fire chief, Mr. Thomas Bassford. Again, according to the city’s website, the pumper could be operated by four men and pump 250 gallons of water per minute. It was shortly put to use in the nearby communities of Broadway and Dayton. And the “modern” Harrisonburg Fire Department was born.
Harrisonburg Fire Museum
Public Safety Building, 3rd Floor
101 North Main Street
Harrisonburg, VA 22802
Open Monday through Friday, 9 AM to 4 PM
Admission: No Charge
Harrisonburg & Rockingham County Visitors Guide 2010-2011, Harrisonburg Tourism & Visitor Services