Not many people know that Arizona is home to one of the largest collections of historical fire trucks and vintage firefighting equipment—and it’s all housed at the Hall of Flame Museum.
The museum was originally founded in 1961 in Wisconsin by George F. Getz, Jr., a Chicago-area industrialist. Getz began collecting fire apparatus after his wife gifted him a 1924 American LaFrance fire engine. The Getz's were fascinated by the rig and began collecting more equipment of all types from all over the world.
In 1974 the family opened the Hall of Fame Museum in its present location in Papago Park, adjacent to the Phoenix Zoo. The museum has since grown to include several galleries and thousands of pieces, including 90 wheeled pieces.
“We have everything from helmets to axes to engines. We even have a piece donated by Gene Autry,” says Mark Moorhead, curator of education. “He found it on his property and donated it to us.”
The collection is all privately owned by the Getz family. The galleries include the Hall of Heroes, which honors firefighters who died in the line of duty or were heavily decorated in the field; a 9-11 memorial dedicated to the firefighters and first responders of that fateful day; and a memorial for the Granite Mountain Hotshots, the 19 fire fighters who perished while fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire in 2013.
The oldest large piece in the Hall of Flame Museum is a 1725 hand pumper from England that had the capability to pump 60 gallons of water at a time—a pretty spectacular feat for the time.
“My favorite piece is an 1844 hand pumper that was built in Philadelphia,” says Moorhead. “It's been restored and is now covered in murals. I just love the 19th century design of it.”
“The museum is a great place to bring kids, but adults will love it too,” Moorhead says. “We are a serious historical museum, but at the same time a fun place to learn and enjoy a visit.”
Representatives of the museum regularly bring artifacts out to the community for educational purposes and trucks are brought to every Fiesta Bowl Parade.
“Fire is a good servant but a bad master, and people are fascinated with it. It's really moving to think of the bravery and sacrifice of firefighters. It's all here,” says Moorhead. “We once had a visitor say there are two must-see places when visiting Arizona—the Grand Canyon and the Hall of Flame Museum.”
The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m.-6 p.m., and is closed on all major holidays. Guided tours are available for pre-booked groups of 10 or more (call ahead for details). The facility is also available to rent for events.