The New Bedford Fire Museum is located at 51 Bedford Street in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The museum is also home to Station No. 4 and is quite possibly the oldest active fire station in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It first opened in 1867. The fire station was initially staffed completely by volunteers. In 1913, paid employees operated the station for a while. A few years ago, the station returned to being staffed by volunteers. The displays inside the museum are open during the summer months for visitors interested in the history of firefighting, especially in New Bedford.
The museum has a vast collection
of firefighting artifacts, including old engines, a steam pumper, and equipment
from different eras. There are two poles that the children can use to slide
down to the first floor. Originally, one
of the poles was meant for the lieutenant; everyone else could use the other
slide. The New Bedford firefighters were reportedly very particular about which
rank used what pole.
The fire museum contains a few
interesting artifacts from when its men helped to fight the Great Boston Fire
in 1872, including a telegram from Boston’s Mayor William Gaston, politely
requesting aid. The fire devastated 776
buildings within 65 acres of land in the city. It lasted for two days in
November 1872 and it took the firefighters at least 12 hours just to get it
under control. Firefighters from all
over the greater Boston area, including New Bedford, descended on the city to
help stop the blaze.
There is also a photograph of the
men who made up Engine Company No. 4 taken on July 4, 1877, complete with the
station’s Dalmatian. There are several fire engines featured in the museum,
including a fully restored
steam-driven pumper from 1884. The pumper was named after Cornelius Howard, a
shipmaster who was also very interested in firefighting. He helped transition
the fire station from hand pumpers to steam pumpers so he earned the honor of
having the new pumper named after him.
Children are more than welcome at the fire museum. They can sit in the fire
trucks and pretend that they are driving them to a fire. The kids are even
allowed to put on the gear, gas masks, and sound the loud sirens. The best
part, probably for any kid, is being able to slide down the pole!
The old engines housed in the museum are occasionally taken out for a
short, slow ride. They are driven in
many of the local parades, including the famous Bristol 4th of July