What looks like a normal fire station in downtown Columbus, is actually home to one of the largest fire safety education programs in the nation. The Central Ohio Fire Museum and Learning Center staff educates children and adults alike how to get out of a residence alive during a fire.
The museum is located at Chestnut and Fourth streets in the old No. 16 Engine House site. Bill Hall, president of the museum, said the building was built in 1908 and was a firehouse until 1982, when it was acquired to be a museum and educational facility. The museum is a private non-profit, mainly supported by payroll deduction of central Ohio firemen. The building was renovated and a fancier facade added, with the museum opening in 2002.
Hall used to work at the station before retiring and using his talents to educate visitors on fire equipment and fire safety. The museum primarily educates youth in grades K-12, but also likes to see families and elderly visitors. They often have scout groups, homeschoolers and school classes visit. The museum even offers birthday party outings.
The museum is located in the larger portion of the building, showcasing fire trucks and wagons over the years, fire equipment, uniforms, badges and alarms. The back portion, which once housed the 10 horses used to pull the fire wagons in the early 20th century, is now the main education center referred to as "education street."
The educational area is very impressive with rooms simulation what a room with a smoke detector and one without would look like after a fire and a room that shows how quickly smoke fills a room. There's also a kitchen showing fire hazards, a room with items that have come from a fire and a 9-1-1 simulator.
In addition to dispensing information about fire safety, the museum also sells escape ladders, carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers and smoke alarms.
The Central Ohio Fire Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with the last tour being offered at 3 p.m. Tours are by appointment and take a half hour to an hour. More time is suggested to ensure adequate time for fire safety education.
The museum is closed when Columbus City Schools are closed, holidays and inclement weather. Director Hall says it's always best to call before visiting. The phone number for the museum is 614-464-4099 and the website is www.centralohiofiremuseum.com.
Limited free parking is available directly to the right of the building and a paid surface parking lot is located on the corner.