DEPUTY Fire Chief Bill Hunt is taking a couple of days off this week. But it will be strictly a fireman's holiday for Hunt, who's spent almost 40 years in the Baltimore City Fire Department.
He'll be in the thick of one of the largest gatherings of firefighters in the country, the annual Firehouse Exposition and Muster, which comes to Baltimore today for the sixth time in eight years. Hunt says he helped "design" the exposition when its sponsor, Firehouse Magazine, started the event. It brings together more than 6,000 career and volunteer firefighters, paramedics, fire buffs and their families for seminars, socials and celebrations of firefighting. Several of the weekend events are open to the public (see accompanying schedule).
Now Hunt is responsible for "apparatus move-in," which means fitting -- just so -- 30 of the country's newest fire engines into the Convention Center exhibit halls. These engines are among more than 200 displays of the latest in fire and emergency services equipment.
Hunt is among "lots and lots" of Baltimore City and County firefighters who work on the event, says Gary Frederick, another deputy city fire chief. Frederick heads the host committee responsible for local events and logistics.
Anne Arundel County firefighters also get involved, with the Earleigh Heights Volunteer Fire Company hosting a bull roast for 500 tomorrow night.
"It's good for the fire service in general and good for Baltimore," says Frederick, a 28-year veteran of the city's fire department. He, too, will be on vacation this week, "but still in uniform," at the Convention Center.
It is this intense interest on the part of local firefighters and fire buffs that keeps the expo returning to Baltimore, says Shirley Sills, convention director for the magazine.
The exposition, which attracts about an equal number of volunteer and career firefighters, is unique, Frederick says, because it is open to all firefighters, not just those of high rank. Most of them pay their own way and make the exposition part of their vacations, he adds. Although almost every state will be represented, the majority of the visiting firefighters are from the East and Midwest.
It will be pretty much of a fireman's holiday for all those attending. They won't be fighting fires, but they will be visiting fire stations, ogling engines and equipping themselves with new techniques for fighting fires.
The seminars, conducted by writers and editors from Firehouse Magazine, cover topics such as building collapse and apparatus specifications. Two New York City firefighters will talk about the rope rescue of two people trapped in an office building in May, and Philadelphia's fire chief, Roger Ulshafer, will discuss that city's skyscraper blaze that killed three firefighters last winter.
The city fire buffs' group, the Box 414 Association, will open its fire museum, at Gay and Ensor streets, evenings during the exposition. The Fire Museum of Maryland in Lutherville will also entertain the visitors.
And should the firefighters want to get a look at a real fire, the buffs will help them out, says Roman Kaminski, a member of the 414 Association and executive vice president of the International Fire Buffs. If alarms come in while visitors are at the city fire museum, the buffs will happily take them to the fire.
Firehouse expo events
The following events at the eighth annual Great American Firehouse Exposition and Muster are open to the public:
Tonight at 7 and tomorrow at 6 p.m. in the Inner Harbor the Baltimore City Fire Boat will present a water display.
Sunday beginning at 9 a.m. at Key Highway and Covington Street about 140 pieces of antique and contemporary fire equipment, plus bands, floats and dignitaries will parade. The route of the two-hour parade will follow Key Highway west to Light Street, north on Light to Conway, west on Conway to Charles, north on Charles to Lombard, west on Lombard to Sharp, south on Sharp to Festival Hall. The reviewing stand will be at Charles and Pratt streets.
Sunday, immediately after the parade in the parking lot adjacent to Festival Hall off Sharp Street, there will be old-fashioned firefighting contests, such as bucket brigade and midnight alarm. Prizes will be given to the winning companies at 3 p.m.
Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Festival Hall at least 150 vendors will sell fire equipment and memorabilia. Admission is $3.
In addition to these events, the public is welcome to view the exhibit of new fire and emergency equipment on display throughout the exposition at the Civic Center. Admission is $5. During the exhibition on Saturday, the Chesapeake Model Fire Engineers will sponsor a display of model fire vehicles. More than 40 exhibitors from Canada to South Carolina will show their models on the third floor of the Convention Center.