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Welcome to Firehouse 3 Museum!

Firehouse 3 Museum
700 Sixth Street
Racine, WI 53403
(262) 637-7395

A Museum and Education Center Exploring the drama and danger of fire and fire fighting in Racine.

Sponsored by:
Racine Fire Bells
PO Box 081042
Racine, WI 53408-1042

Fire Fighting History in Racine - From the History of the Racine Fire Department published in 1992

1834 - Village of Racine Founded by Gilbert Knapp

January 1841 - One of the earliest reported fires in Racine - JO Bartlett Dry Goods Store Fire.

November 1841 - First Official Act to protect property from the hazards of Fire - Fire Wardens appointed.

January 1843 - First Organized Engine Company

February 1843 - First Organized Truck Company

August 1844 - Village of Racine authorized to purchase fire fighting equipment - four ladders, a like number of hooks, and the digging of Cisterns.

1846 - First Death by Fire in Racine - Mrs Marshal Strong, and her children perished in the Flames.

August 1848 - City of Racine Incorporated

October 1848 - Sidney Dickinson elected to Chief Engineer of the Racine Fire Department.

1849 - The City builds three fire stations - Engine House No. 1 at 162 Wisconsin Street, Engine House No. 2 at 45 Main Street, and Engine House No. 3 at 43 Seventh Street. Three hand pumpers also delivered - Engine 1 the Racine, Engine 2 the Fire King, and Engine 3 the Star of the West.

August 1854- Mutual Aid from Racine sent to Milwaukee by Boat. 180 fire fighters and three hand engines.

March 1856 - Racine Fire Department Incorporated

1862 - Law enacted compelling citizens to assist in fire fighting if so requested.

October 1867 - Racine's First Steamer "Gem of the Lake" purchased from the Silsby Company.

November 1879 - First Gamewell Telegraphic Alarm System Installed.

May 1882 - The Great Fire. This blaze destroyed everything from Root River south to 5th Street. One-Eighth of the total assessed value of the property in Racine went up in smoke. A significant turning point in the History of the Racine Fire Department.

November 1884 - Racine Fire Department orders its last fire steamer.

December 1884 - Blake Opera House Fire at Sixth & College Avenue.

December 1885 - Firemen's Relief Association organizated

September 1887 - Racine Water Works begins pumping water through new underground water mains with connections to over 300 fire hydrants.

1897 - First Police and Fire Commission Appointed.

January 1908 - First Pension plan went into effect for the firemen.

July 1908 - first Central Fire Station "Station 5" was opened and served as the department's headquarters until 1968.

December 1909 - Racine Manufacturing Company Blaze. Loss placed at $775,000 and 1200 men thrown out of work.

May 1910 - Trading Horse Power for Horsepower. First motorized piece of fire fighting apparatus purchased by the City.

November 1918 - Racine Fire Department completely motorized.

December 1931 - Racine Fire Fighters unionize and become affiliated with the IAFF.

July 1943 - First Full Time Rescue Squad placed in Service.

August 1946 - Fire Prevention Bureau created.

1950 - Fire Fighters went from an 84 hour work week to a 78 hour work week.

1951 - Racine Fire Department on the air - They receive FCC permission to operate on their own VHF radio frequency.

1952 - Work week reduced to 75 hours, 1953 work week reduced to 72 hours.

January 1968 - New Emergency Reporting Telephones Place in Service. Racine Public Safety Building - RFD Station 1 officially opened. Several companies combined at one location.

April 1969 - Racine Fire Department becomes a Class 1 Fire Department.

1974 - Emergency Medical Technician training is undertaken by fire fighters.

1985 - Hazardous Materials Response Team begins training for chemical emergencies.

June 1998 - First Paramedic Rescue Squad placed in service.

What is History? How are we affected by history? What happens if we forget the past? Simply stated, today's events are tomorrow's history. History is a great teacher of lessons. The fire service is one of the best examples of what history can do for us. It teaches us that prevention is better than suppression. Yet without the lessons learned through fire fighting, prevention would be meaningless. Likewise the evolution of fire fighting to the highly technical skills of today are the result of past mistakes, which sometimes were paid for through death and permanant disability of a fire fighters.

History also gives us a sense of pride. Pride in being associated with one of the most noble professions known to mankind. Throughout the world, North America, South America, South Pacific, the Far East, Europe, the Soviet Union or anywhere you travel, when family, friends, or strangers are in dire need of medical, or fire fighting skills, fire fighters, both career, and volunteer respond to the call of duty. For hundreds of years fire fighters have earned a unique trust among our diversified population, a trust in that they, the fire fighters, are there to help, not hurt. Fire Fighters are entrusted with our most precious possessions - the preservation of life and property. To that end, Firehouse 3 Museum is dedicated to sharing the history of Fire Fighting in Racine with the Citizens of of Racine and Southeast Wisconsin. Here is our story...

Since the early days of the settlement of Racine, fire protection has been on the minds of most residents in this community. Fire protection has taken many forms. In the early days this meant that residents all kept a bucket and a rope handy to be used in suppressing any fire that did occur. As time went on the chore of fire protection moved from the hands of the citizens in general to a group of people who would drill together periodically so that they were somewhat more familiar with the techniques of fire fighting.

The organization of fire protection companies was a significant step forward in protecting the village and City of Racine from the ravages of fire. With these organized fire companies buckets were soon given up in favor of hand pumpers. Hand pumpers, with their ability to deliver more water to the fire in less time, provided the early fire fighters with an edge on the smaller conflagrations. However muscle power was still the prime mover of water and as fatigue set in at a big fire, the ability to sustain a steady flow of water diminished rapidly.

When steamers arrived on the scene, this new power source promised to deliver steady volumes of water over long periods of time so long as the boilers were properly tended and the cistern did not run dry. Again as fires grew bigger and bigger the steamers would outstrip their water supply and become useless. Many more buildings were lost to the unforgiving nature of fire due to a lack of a consistent water supply. Another significant step in the right direction was the installation of a water system that would deliver water through underground pipes to a valve on every street corner in the city. These hydrants soon became a gathering point for steamers, and later motorized fire apparatus, as they provided an unlimited water supply to fight fires.

Today when a major fire occurs, the ability to deliver 15,000 to 20,000 gallons of water per minute on a fire is often taken for granted. The dependability of the water supply is extraordinary and rarely do failures occur. Fire damage is limited but sometimes the damage from excessive water can exceed the actual damage from a fire. It's a no win situation.

The historical significance of our past is important to our future. Firehouse 3 Museum is located at 700 Sixth Street in Racine, WI. This museum is a former Racine Fire Department station which was active from 1882 to 1968. Throughout the years the Fire Station has housed a Horse Drawn Steamer, a Horse Drawn Hose Cart (1882-1918), a Motorized Fire Engine (1918-1943), and Racine's first full time Rescue Squad (1943-1968). The station was closed in 1968 when the new Safety Building opened and several companies were consolidated at one location.

Firehouse 3 Museum is not intended to be a tribute to fire, per Se, rather it is dedicated to the memory of those brave individuals who have spent, and in some instances given their lives to preserve the safety and property of others. This museum is a living memorial dedicated to the fire fighters of Racine, living, and dead; past, present, and future; who devote their lives to the protection of their neighbors. The momentos and artifacts displayed in this old firehouse are preserved as a reminder of what fire fighting was like over one hundred years ago, and how it has evolved into the science of today.

The building has been preserved to reflect the early 1900's. Centerpieces of the museum include the 1882 "Stephen Freeman" Steamer which is a Silsby 600 gpm steamer, and a 1930 Pirsch 1000 gpm Triple Combination pumper (Ex-Racine Engine 5). Other artifacts include a working Gamewell Telegraphic Alarm System, Helmets, a cutaway Fire Hydrant, Nozzles, a Hand Drawn Hose Cart from the Horlick Malted Milk Company, Trophies, and Awards won by Racine Fire Fighters in the mid to late 1800's, an Extensive Collection of Breathing Apparatus from the 1920's to the present, and many other pieces of fire fighting history. The old Hay Loft is now a theatre area where films and videos on Fire Prevention can be shown.

VISITORS are ALWAYS Welcome!! The Museum is open Every Sunday except Holidays from 1:00 until 4:00 pm. Special tour arrangements during the week can be made by calling (262) 634-6903 (Scott Tangerstrom) or (262) 633-4305 (Wilber Tangerstrom). Group Tours please call ahead. Admission is free.

Directions to Firehouse 3 Museum...
700 Sixth Street - Racine, WI
Take I-94 to the Highway 20 Exit in Racine at milepost 333. Go east into Racine. Highway 20 is also known as Washington Avenue. Highway 20 (Washington Avenue) turns into Seventh Street in front of the museum. The museum is located at the intersection of Sixth/Seventh Street and Grand Avenue, approximately 10 miles from I-94 and is immediately east of Racine City Hall by the Paul J. Harris Plaza (with the four faced clock). If you reach Lake Michigan you have gone six blocks east of the museum.

E-Mail Curator of the Museum

Who are the Racine Fire Bells - Check out their home page
 Last Update Sept. 17, 1999  Web Site maintained by Steve Hansen
Copyright © Racine Fire Bells, Inc. 1999

Fire Buffs and Enthusiasts have visited this page since 9/17/99.