The Hall of Flame Fire Museum in Phoenix is the largest firefighting museum in the world, but it's easy to pass while driving east on Van Buren Street toward Mill Avenue.
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But take a right around 61st Street, and you'll find a fascinating collection of fire engines, firefighting equipment, and even a piece of the Twin Towers -- all just a stone's throw from Van Buren.
The Hall of Flame Fire Museum houses fully restored pieces of firefighting history, including dozens of fire carriages, pumps, and trucks, dating from 1725 to 1969.
Until 1961, this massive collection was the private passion of businessman George F. Getz, Jr., who began collecting fire apparatuses in 1955 after his wife, Olive, game him a 1924 fire engine for Christmas. By '61, Getz had collected enough to open a Hall of Flame museum in Wisconsin and establish the National Historic Fire Foundation. The museum relocated to Phoenix in 1974, and now boasts a collection of around 130 fire engines.
There are three large galleries inside the museum. Gallery I displays hand- and horse-drawn fire engines and ladder wagons, including an English fire engine from 1725, and a beautiful 1870 parade carriage from Derby, Connecticut (there were about five parade carriages in the museum, and all were ornate and beautiful).
Gallery II houses around 25 motorized fire rigs, including a 1931 piston pumper restored by the Hall of Flame's own Don Hale and a monstrously huge Mack "bulldog" ladder truck from 1919. Gallery III, which is closest to the museum parking lot, displays items usually brought out for parades and local events. Two of the more notable items in Gallery III are a 1967 English ERF fire engine (which looks like a boxy bus from the front) and a quad fire engine from Illinois.
In addition to the three galleries, there's also an exhibit on Wildland Fires, and a "National Hall of Heroes" dedicated to fallen firefighters, including those who perished on 9/11. A piece of steel beam from the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center is on display in this area. There's also a mock-up of an old call station, with an audio patch into live scanner calls about fires in the area.
The Hall of Flame Fire Museum is located at 6101E. Van Buren Street. Call 602-275-3473 or visit www.hallofflame.org for more information.