California Fire Museum – Safety Learning Center
By: Don Croucher, President
The progress of the California fire Museum-Safety Learning Center (CFM) has ramped up so much so, it has been difficult to find time to write articles, as well as the newsletter. In the past several months things have really begun to happen for CFM. One of the problems we had in the past was the donation to us of many vintage fire apparatus which we felt necessary to accept and save. The problem is to save vintage apparatus, you need space to store, people to work on them, and if you are going to use them, you need to continue registration with the DMV, plus have them insured. Much of this is costly in which the more you have, the more money it costs. When a rig is offered, especially if there is some sort of historical significance, it is very hard to turn it down. Because once you turn it down, usually it moves on to someone else or is scrapped because the owner can no longer afford to keep it. Usually if it moves on with someone else, it could migrate to another part of the country where it never may be seen again.
At present CFM has 20 fire apparatus on our roster, give or take. I say give or take because some are on loan to other organizations and some are in the process of being donated to other organizations and some may end up being scrapped. A handful are in operation and used at events and special requests. Some are in pretty rough shape, but hold a significant historical value and must be evaluated as to whether they should be restored or not.
We have a 1960 Seagrave pumper that originally came from the Anaheim Fire Department, was donated to a volunteer fire department in Northern California which in turn donated it to CFM several years ago. At present we are in negotiations to donate this back to the Anaheim Fire Department. The bottom line is, we are in the business of trying to save our fire service history, whether it be apparatus, memorabilia, or photographs. And, if in the process, we can facilitate any of this back to its original department, we will do so. Otherwise, we will save it, store it and use it in our future museum exhibits, archives or presentations.
Recently we were able to negotiate with the Santa Margarita Water District the use of a vacant building which contains a number of rooms with inside and outside storage areas for our fire apparatus. This has been a huge advancement for us regarding storage and a place to work on our fire apparatus. Plus, after some renovation, we were able to construct a large meeting room, a tool storage and workshop with inside storage area for some of our larger hand-drawn apparatus, such as our 1900’s hose cart, Badger extinguisher cart and our 9/11 steel exhibit cart. This facility has also given us a place to store all our event displays, exhibits, tables and chairs, plus all supplies needed for our museum-without-walls events. We call our new facility our “CFM Shop,” which is located in Mission Viejo, just off the end of La Paz Rd. This facility has also generated much more interest in our project with people coming by to see our apparatus collection, volunteer their time to help out restoring, maintaining and cleaning our fleet of apparatus. It has also given us a room where we can now hold our monthly board meetings, store some of our records and work on projects.
At present we have moved 10 of our fire apparatus to our new shop location and are in the process of moving several more. By having most of our fire apparatus in one location, it has tremendously reduced our workload and the process of keeping track of all of our fire apparatus. We have already had a number of work party days where we worked on bringing the facility up to a workable condition by painting, cleaning, organizing and updating the general appearance.
Setting up a facility such as this, we found a huge need for all kinds of items to make it usable and to maintain the facility and the apparatus. We put out a list of needs to our membership and others, listing all the items needed which included simple things like brooms, dust pans, tool racks, toolboxes, tools, ladders, trash cans, and much more. The response was tremendous. We now have almost everything we need to do business at our new facility. A big thanks goes out to all who answered our request and donated items.
Orange County Great Park and our building
We are still working with our museum planner, Howard Lovering, of logic Inc., to get all our ducks in a row, so we can continue raising the funds needed for our Master Plan. Howard has put together an excellent master plan team and has estimated we will need around $200,000 to fund the master plan. A master plan is needed before you can do any building fund campaign. When you start asking for high-end dollars for a building campaign, you need to show them what it is they will be donating to, and this is where the master plan comes in. Howard has continued to supply us with needed information and documents to present to the Great Park on our behalf, dealing with all aspects of planning and funding for fire Museum building.
Our plans with the Great Park are continuing with some changes regarding the location that was originally designated as part of our feasibility study. Due to ongoing negotiations with Five Point Communities (Lennar), there may be some major changes in the Great Park Master Plan that was originally put together years ago by Ken Smith, the Great Park architect. There was talk of moving our building location from next to the Balloon parking lot, over to the future Cultural Terrace where the Air Museum, amphitheater, arts and culture, and other Great Park amenities are planned in the future. However, recent plans to move OCFA fire station 20 from its temporary location on Trabuco Road to a location inside the Great Park, has presented some other possibilities for locating our fire museum. CFM has been included in a meeting with the City of Irvine, Great Park staff, Orange County Fire Authority and the Irvine Company. This meeting is one of several planned to discuss the location of fire station 20 on Great Park property, and also the possibility of including CFM and safety learning center nearby. We are bringing Howard Lovering down from Seattle Washington to attend this meeting with us to answer any in-depth questions which may arise regarding our project.
By the time this article is published, we should have a better idea of how things may work out regarding this new location at the Great Park. We are hoping this can work out to be very beneficial for CFM with hopefully some possible additional funding towards our project. But we will have to wait and see how things pan out.
Speaking of funding, we would like to thank Orange County Fire Service Association for a recent $5,000 donation to help with our ongoing expenses. We also want to thank the Orange County Fire Authority Firefighter Union IAFF Local 3631 for an additional $5,000 donation.
The California Fire Museum, Orange County Division, would like to invite all Orange County city fire departments to also participate in our project. Our plans are to have space in our future fire museum to feature every city fire department in Orange County. Because of the constant flux and changing of the fire services, we feel it is very important to be able to save the history of those departments which have been disbanded and no longer exist. They need to be remembered for the services they provided and those who served with these city departments. Recently, some of the oldest departments have been disbanded, such as the Santa Ana City Fire Department, one of Orange County's oldest departments, which originated back in 1883.
We are looking for representatives from each existing city fire department to join with us to help preserve and exhibit the history of your department. We are also looking for representatives from fire departments that have been disbanded over the past years.
City fire departments that no longer exist include: Tustin, Seal Beach, Westminster, Buena Park, Stanton, Placentia, San Clemente, La Habra, MCAS El Toro, MCAS Tustin.
If you have photos, memorabilia or written history from any of the above disbanded fire departments, or if you are with a city fire department and would like to help with a committee to include your department in the California Fire Museum at the Orange County Great Park, please contact Don Croucher at 949-493-8718 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. We want to include each and every fire department in Orange County in the Orange County Fire Services history section.