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by Bill Demarest

Rockland County has many local museums that trace the growth of its communities and the contributions of its people, and tucked away in a section of the county’s fire training center in Pomona is a museum that pays tribute to the brave volunteers who for generations have protected the county from the dangers of fire.

The Rockland County Volunteer Fire Services Museum contains artifacts from all 26 of Rockland County’s volunteer fire departments, ranging from documents and the badges worn by firefighters to the old horse-drawn equipment and hand-powered pumps that once protected communities in the county. The museum features old fire trucks, gear and even the toys manufactured over time for children fascinated by the work of firefighters.

In Rockland County, all its fire departments are 100 percent volunteer. Those volunteers, ranging in age from 16 to active volunteers in their 80s, all receive training to become firefighters—and to keep their skills current over time—at the Fire Training Center just off Route 45 in Pomona. The fire services museum is located just one floor below where volunteers receive most of their training and displays that are part of the museum line the hallways of the training center so current firefighters can see their direct link to a long tradition of volunteer firefighting throughout Rockland County.

To help support the museum, a flea market and craft fair is taking place at the Fire Training Center, 35 Firemen’s Memorial Drive—next door to Provident Bank Park—on Saturday, June 7. The rain date is Sunday, June 8.
Vendors are being sought to participate in the craft fair Cost: $20 per table, which is an 8-foot by 15-foot space. To become a vendor at the event, contact Michael Leitner, one of the curators of the museum, at 845-634-1249.

Leitner said that for those who discover the museum and its collection, it’s a fascinating experience because the museum shows the technological advances of the past 150 years that have helped volunteer firefighters go from bucket brigades to today’s sophisticated organizations that use that latest in firefighting technology to protect them and to protect the community.

Schools, camps and other organizations visit the museum on a regular basis. To make an appointment for a tour, call the Fire Training Center at 845-364-8800. Tours are given by volunteers, like Leitner, who care and maintain the artifacts in the museum.

Throughout Rockland County, many local volunteer fire departments also maintain their own collections of antique firefighting equipment and memorabilia. For example, in the Nyack Fire Department, whose eight companies include some of the oldest in Rockland County, visitors to local fire houses can see antique firefighting equipment at Orangetown Engine Co. No. 1 on Depot Place in South Nyack and at Highland Hose Co. No. 5 on Main Street in Nyack.

Most firehouses throughout Rockland County also have displays of photos from the history of their firehouses and the volunteers who served the community. Rockland fire departments welcome visitors to the firehouses, where volunteers can usually be found on week nights for firehouse meetings and on weekend mornings for drills and training sessions. K

Bill Demarest is a journalist with extensive experience in reporting the news. Reach him at 845.548.9048 or e-mail williamedemarest@gmail.com