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National fire archive and county museum moves forward

James Rada
Emmitsburg Dispatch

(4/19) Years ago, Emmitsburg Commissioner Glenn Blanchard served as an election judge in the Vigilant Hose Company. At slow times during the day, he took time to look at the artifacts of Emmitsburg’s firefighting history preserved in cases in the fire station. He said the history represented there “fascinated” him.

Its relics and historical information like that which can be preserved in Heritage Hall. County officials proposed Heritage Hall in December to be a county fire museum and a national fire service archive.


Dressed as an early Frederick County firefighter, Chip Jewell addressed the town commissioners on April 16 about the new county fire museum and national fire service archive.

“This is an opportunity to help save the history of our county fire service and the heritage of our nation’s fire service,” Jewell told the commissioners during their meeting on April 16.

The location for the two operations would be in the current Emmitsburg Ambulance Company building, though it will be remodeled so that it looks like an old-time fire house. However, the commissioners had asked the county to tear the building down when the ambulance company vacated it for their new building on Creamery Road.

This was before the idea of Heritage Hall was presented. To continue moving the project forward, the commissioners needed to rescind their request that the county tear the building down. This they did unanimously during the meeting.

Mayor James Hoover said Heritage Hall would be “a perfect fit” with Emmitsburg, which already has the National Fire Training Center and the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial.

The front portion would be occupied by the county fire museum filled with firefighting artifacts, including an 1835 Rumsey hand pumper used to fight the courthouse fire in Frederick in 1861. The archive would be at the rear of the building and hold national documents and other written materials concerning the fire service.

“I think it will be a wonderful treasure for our town,” said Commissioner Cliff Sweeney.

The purpose of the archive, which will be known as the National Fire Heritage Center” is to have an archive of America’s fire service in the same way the Army Heritage Center in Carlisle, Pennsylvania maintains materials relating to the army. Some major fire service organizational and private collections have already committed to donating their memorabilia to the proposed center.