National Fire Heritage Center Background
Preserving the Written History of Fire in America
Gaining access to many important historical fire-related writings has until recently been difficult to nearly impossible as there has not been a centralized, coordinated archival activity to insure that important written materials are saved in an accessible fashion. Indeed, much of the rich written history of Fire in America is hard to locate with some of it having already been lost. Most such documentation that does exist is held in private collections where access is exceedingly difficult. Often those locations are not readily known and typically they have no support personnel on staff to properly collect, preserve, and catalog materials that could allow electronic access by others.
Founders of the National Fire Heritage Center (NFHC) gathered in July 2005 to discuss bringing about a systematic process to overcome these shortcomings. Envisioned was a “Center” for assuring the collection of and access to historical information, both electronically and otherwise. It is both an archive and legacy documentation preservation project. The NFHC effort has been designed to not supplant but rather to support existing fire libraries, which generally contain documents of the second half of the 20th century, or fire museums, which often contain only limited written materials for ready reference or only hold materials specific to a given locality and not national in scope.
Upon being incorporated in the State of Maryland, the National Fire Heritage Center received its non-profit organizational status in the fall of 2006 allowing it to receive tax-deductible contributions and collection-suitable donations. When first launched, the original concept was referred to as “Heritage Hall.” The National Fire Heritage Center archival effort of today is a more encompassing organizational title and effort which can be thought of as a central repository of significant written history of the fire services and fire protection disciplines from throughout our nation’s history.
The NFHC does contain limited 3-dimensional items that enhance the written materials in the collection from both the public and private sectors. The 3-D items help supplement telling the story of the history of Fire in America. The NFHC has been called the “attic of the fire community” – a place where important historical written materials are held and even better are properly maintained / catalogued to ultimately be accessible via electronic means for those doing research.
Co-located along with the Frederick County, Maryland, Fire / Rescue Museum, both are located at 300B South Seton Avenue in Emmitsburg, Maryland, within walking distance of the National Fire Academy / U.S. Fire Administration / National Fallen Firefighters Memorial and related elements on the campus of the National Emergency Training Center. To learn more, please consult our websites, www.nationalfireheritagecenter.org / www.thenfhc.org. Consider joining us. Thank You.
In July 2005, a group of individuals gathered in Frederick, Maryland to discuss a concept that had been in the incipient stage for years. Retired California State Fire Marshal Ronny J. Coleman who had been elected as a chair of a planning committee, brought the group together for the primary reason of determining what future course of action could or should be executed on behalf of protecting the intellectual property of the American Fire Services and allied professions based on the FEMA Document.
At the outset, it was noted that this idea has precedent. The proposed Archival and Research Center is basically patterned after the Army Heritage and Education Center located at Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The Army Heritage Center was designed to “serve as the Army’s public library and archives for Army’s history.” It is currently operating to actively acquire, store, organize, and preserve, and provide accessibility of all classifications of written documents pertaining to the history of the United States Army and actions of warfare from the time of George Washington right up to the Iraq conflict. Other historical artifacts are both stored and displayed in the Army Heritage Museum. Future plans for this facility include the provision for both indoor and open area exhibit centers to display Army articles of warfare including the evolution of rifles, side arms, uniforms, artillery pieces, armored vehicles, tanks, and other equipment and devices. A separate Visitors and Education Center is in the advanced planning stages.
The Research Center, in the Archival building, provides space for current Army personnel, retired Army and other military personnel, along with civilian writers and researchers to access the documents on file electronically or in special cases to examine the original documents. To provide this capability, there is a staff of librarians, archivist, and document restorers that have established a filing system that cross references each document by specific titles and/or subject matter.
These lectures or presentations are presented frequently and are very well attended by both present and past military personnel. Less specific and detailed lectures, film showings, and presentations are planned for the general public when funds become available.
Subsequent to the visit we have since learned that there is a Law Enforcement Center serving that profession in the same capacity. It is located at 400 7th Street N.W., Suite 300, Washington D.C. 20004. (202-737-3400). It is being studied as part of the strategic planning process.
Vision of Ultimate Facility
The primary objective of the National Fire Heritage Center is to archive the history of the American Fire Service and Fire Protection Disciplines. Establishing this facility will facilitate historical review and research to approaches and methods to save human life from destructive fires and mitigate fire losses in the future.
This body of knowledge should significantly eliminate a redundancy in our national effort to achieve these objectives. Therefore, the facility should be the centerpiece of an entire complex, patterned after the very successful and highly utilized Army Heritage and Education Center at Carlisle, PA.
The facility will include a comprehensive variety of materials to tell the complete story of the evolution of:
1. The technology and methodology of fire suppression including:
a. Fire apparatus and equipment
b. Personal protective equipment
2. The technology of built-in fire protection, including
a. Automatic sprinkler systems
b. Fire codes requirements
c. Other specialized fire protection extinguishing systems
d. Building construction and fire testing of materials
Developments in fire protection and safety can only be really appreciated by seeing the evolution of selected examples of period fire apparatus and equipment along with the evolution of sprinkler systems and other extinguishing systems, and most important the fire research methods that have brought fire safety in the United States to the level that we enjoy today.
This plan is intended to achieve that long range goal.