Brazil Fire Chief Tobey Archer and Assistant Chief Jake Bennett visit with Clay County Historical Society Board President Larry Harrison and Board Member Ed Modesitt to see the new Brazil City Fire Department display at the museum featuring the brass slide-down fire pole and other items from the department.
"Where's the fire pole?"
According to Brazil Fire Chief Tobey Archer, it's a question that comes up during almost every tour of the Brazil City Fire Station by curious elementary students and even a few adults. It used to be a difficult question to answer because there hasn't been a fire pole in the station for almost 39 years.
"Now we can tell them exactly where it's at. It's right here" at the Clay County Historical Society Museum, Archer said.
Archer and Assistant Chief Jake Bennett got a sneak peek at a new display of items from the Brazil City Fire Department before the Clay County Historical Society Museum's April 3 re-opening.
Bennett has researched the history of the Brazil Fire Department.
The 25-foot brass fire pole comes from the two-story brick fire station built between 1899 and 1901 on the south side of the old City Hall building. Firemen used it to rush to horse-drawn fire wagons for 17 years and then for another 50 years when motorized fire engines were used.
Bennett told The Brazil Times that fire poles have almost been eliminated from firehouses throughout the country.
"Concerns about ankle and other types of injuries suspected to be caused by the slide down pole prompted departments to ban their use," he said. "Stories of the old local fire station (and the pole) have been handed down by senior firefighters for years, and still circulate even though the majority of firefighters on the job today were not yet born before the building was demolished."
In 1967, the present City Hall/Fire Station was built without a slide down pole.
The pole was stored at the station for many years. At some time the pole was moved to the museum where it stayed in storage until this past winter when the fire pole was given a home.
The museum display consists of the pole, pictures of the horse-pulled fire wagons and the first motorized engine in 1917 along with other items used by firefighters of the department in the past. Archer and Bennett are continuing to look for items to add to the display.
"It took a lot of dedication to recondition the pole and get it set up here inside the museum," Archer said. "We really appreciate the Historical Society's efforts to preserve part of our department's history."
Sliding down a pole in an attempt to shave seconds off emergency response time is an image of firefighters ingrained in the imaginations of the public for generations. The fire pole was a fundamental part of two-story fire stations for many years and a very personal item for many firefighters.
"A lot of firefighters have used that pole over the years. It has a lot of history and memories attached to it," Archer said. "We recently had a retired firefighter pass away that used this pole during his time with the department. I'm sure his spirit, and those of all the others, are honored by this. They're here."
Clay County Historical Society board members are proud to be able to honor the 100 years of the Brazil Fire Department's history in the museum.
"We expect a lot of kids to come in just to see how tall the pole is and want to touch it just to experience a part of history gone by," President Larry Harrison said.
"A lot of adults too," board member Ed Modesitt added. "We're really proud of it."
See more at the Historical Society Museum on National Avenue
The new fire department display is only one of many that will be available to the public when the Clay County Historical Society Museum reopens on April 3. People are invited to visit the facility from 1 to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Saturdays will be scheduled as staff personnel are available. For more information, or to schedule a time to visit the facility, please contact the museum at 446-4036. Board President Larry Harrison can also be contacted for tour information at 446-0285.