Honoring firefighter history and volunteers
Crook County Fire and Rescue's fire museum wasn't exactly a brand new facility in late January when the agency held a ribbon-cutting and dedication for it.
The building was purchased about four years ago, and fire and rescue leaders began filling it with items about a year and a half ago. It has been open to the public on an intermittent basis ever since.
But agency leaders and Mike Wright, CCFR's volunteer assistant chief and the museum's unofficial curator, wanted to dedicate the facility officially and, in the process, honor local firefighters past and present.
"The dedication was basically honoring past volunteers and the fire department now," he said.
Wright says that a plaque affixed to a wall of the museum essentially summarizes what the dedication and ribbon-cutting are all about.
"To be a volunteer firefighter is one of the most selfless acts one can accomplish," it states. "These great men and women are the foundation on which the fire service began and has grown into a dynasty of community service around the world."
The firefighters who participated in the ribbon-cutting are old-time volunteers, said Wright, who is himself a 44-year volunteer.
"They are the ones who made this department," he said.
The museum idea arose from a need to store CCFR's antique firefighting equipment somewhere besides the floor of the main station where equipment still in use is also kept.
"The antique equipment is priceless," Wright said.
Some of the noteworthy equipment still in the agency's possession includes an 1882 Rumsey hand pumper, which the city of Prineville purchased new for $180, and a 40-man hand pumper that the city bought in 1885. The apparatus was priced at $1,310, but Wright notes that the city got it at a discount of $875 because the municipality paid cash.
"We call it Big Blue," Wright said.
He added that fire departments don't typically possess or display antique firefighting equipment, and while he can't verify why the local agency kept so much, he has a theory.
"I honestly believe that there was a lot of pride in this department, and people wanted to save the past," he said. Punctuating that belief, he points out that volunteers from the 1970s fully refurbished Big Blue.
Going forward, Wright said, the museum will continue to open as circumstances allow, but he is looking into some more defined openings. This spring, he is considering opening the facility to coincide with special community events such as the Crooked River Roundup or the annual Easter egg hunt.
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