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County will help fire museum get started

James Rada
Emmitsburg Dispatch

(9/20)  During a Sept. 18 meeting, the Frederick County Board of Commissioners agreed to help the National Fire Heritage Center get established in Emmitsburg.

“The interest in the fire heritage museum has been growing since May of last year,” said Austin Abraham, Frederick County Management Services Division director.

The National Fire Heritage Center would house a county fire and rescue museum where the current Emmitsburg Ambulance Company bays are and a national archive of fire service documents, books and manuscripts at the back of the ambulance company building where the social hall now is.

“Logically, for a site, it makes a lot of sense,” said Clarence “Chip” Jewell, chairman of the fire museum committee. “Emmitsburg is the seat of the nation’s fire service.” This is because of the presence of the National Fire Training Center and the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial in town.

Besides requesting to be able to lease the ambulance company building for $1 a year when the new ambulance company building is opened, the Frederick County Fire and Rescue Museum and Preservation Society requested that the county perform some initial light maintenance work and operational funding for the building for first two years.

The county costs would be $16,700 for the current fiscal year and $10,000 in the next fiscal year.

“I think it is a minimal investment to protect the history of the county fire service,” said Commission President Jan Gardner.

One of the major changes to the building once it becomes a museum would be to add a facade on the front of the building so that it looks like an old fire hall.

While Commissioner John L. Thompson, Jr. said the cause was worthwhile, he said he couldn’t support the effort.

“These kinds of things are best funded by the philanthropic members of our community,” Thompson said, adding that he would be willing to make a personal donation.

The commissioners voted 3-2 to supporting the fire museum and providing the needed funding.

Eventually the archive portion of the building will be moved to its own location since it is expected to outgrow the social hall area of the ambulance company in about five years.

“They are looking for land actually in the Emmitsburg area for an actual archive facility,” Jewell said.
Jewell said the next step will be to make a presentation to the county fire association, set up membership parameters and begin fund raising. He is hoping to have the museum portion of the building open by April 2008. The archive area could open earlier.

“I’d love to see us participate in the museum season next year,” Jewell said.

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