Party gives buffs chance to see firefighters' world

Displaying antiques, museum celebrates its 30th anniversary

September 09, 2001|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

Sherilyn Namie normally wouldn't visit the Fire Museum of Maryland in Lutherville on a sunny Saturday, but her 3-year-old son Timmy loves fire engines and wants to be a firefighter when he grows up.

So Namie brought Timmy to the museum yesterday to take a look at its collection of antique fire trucks and displays. Timmy walked around the museum in a child-size firefighter jacket and boots.

"He wants a real firetruck for his birthday," said Namie, 27, of Owings Mills.

Timmy won't get a firetruck for his birthday, but he got to inspect several antique fire engines yesterday during the museum's 30th anniversary celebration.

The party continues today from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. as volunteers hold a fire engine parade and spray water from 20 different engines in front of the museum at 1301 York Road.

Stephen Heaver Jr. and his father, Stephen Heaver, founded the museum in 1971 after collecting several firetrucks. They built the museum to house and display them.

Heaver, the curator, says the museum is designed to show people how firefighting equipment works and to put firefighting in a broader historical perspective.

The museum has about 40 pieces of firefighting apparatus on display and several exhibits that show firefighting's evolution from hand-drawn pumps to today's modern trucks.

The museum drew an assortment of visitors yesterday - from parents with children to self-proclaimed fire buffs who listen to fire radios and sometimes rush to fires to watch firefighters in action.

Charlie Shultz, vice president of the Chesapeake Model Fire Engineers club, sat behind a display of his fire engine models and said he loved coming to the museum. "For a fire buff, this is heaven," Schultz said. "People can relate when they see a model and the real piece of equipment."

The museum added a working model to its permanent exhibit yesterday: a quarter-scale 1872 horse-drawn Button pump. It took James H. Lockhart, 87, of Rockville nearly 10 years to build the model, finishing in the 1980s.

The brass-plated pump, which has large, wooden wheels covered with aluminum, runs on propane and can shoot out 5 gallons of water per minute.

As a machinist in West Virginia in the 1930s, Lockhart worked on an 1872 Button pump. It was a challenge to build, Lockhart said, because "nobody wanted to help me - no way, shape or form. Nobody would sell me the small quantity of material I needed."

Heaver said he hopes to add more trucks and models to the museum's collection.

He has his eye on a 1912 Ahrens-Fox, one of the first motorized fire trucks. "It's the Rolls Royce of fire engines," Heaver said.

There's only one left in the world, Heaver said, and it's sitting in a barn in "the mid-United States."

Heaver would be no more specific for fear of tipping off other museum curators to the truck's existence. "I want to be the first one there when this man gets tired of it," he said.

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