Canberra's Fiery Collection

Who doesn’t feel something positive when a fire truck rushes down the street with lights flashing and siren sounding? Amongst the knowledge that drama or even tragedy is unfolding somewhere, there is also relief that help is on the way. There is a sense of admiration for those that put themselves at risk to save people and property from whatever seeks to cause death or destruction.

As a kid I always wanted to be a fireman; every young boy does. The sound of a siren would lure me to the footpath hoping to catch a glimpse of the local brigade responding to a call. As an adult I still maintain some of that interest in fire trucks and respect for the fire fighters that do this vital work.

In my travels I have been to fire museums in Sydney, Melbourne and almost Perth but they are stories for another day. I discovered another by chance when I Goolged “Museum of Fire” to confirm opening times for the nearby Penrith museum. Amongst the results was a hit for the Canberra Fire Museum so I added it to my list of things to do and places to see. I was recently in Canberra so my brother and I decided to check it out.

The museum is appropriately located and easily found in the old Forrest Fire Station at the corner of Empire Circuit and Fitzroy Street. It’s open Saturdays from 9:00 to 3:00. You’ll spot the sandwich board with the flashing lights on the corner and some of the collection in the driveway out the front. The museum is overflowing with items and the knowledge of the volunteer staff is just as vast. The major drawcards of the collection are the vehicles and once they’ve got you in, you then begin to appreciate all the other artefacts and activities that go with those vehicles throughout their working life and now in their restoration and preservation.

You will usually see a 1923 Albion fire engine parked in the driveway. It is Canberra’s second motorised appliance (if memory serves me correctly the Hotchkiss undergoing restoration at the museum is the first). You will also see early vehicles in the classic fire-engine red that we non-Canberra folks are used to and more recent vehicles in the “ACT Fire Brigade Yellow”. A visit to the museum’s web site or the museum itself will provide the rationale behind the change. For the Victorians you’ll see the familiar shape of a vehicle once used by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade. For the aviation fans there is an airport fire tender. For the locals there are appliances that once protected your neighbourhood and memories of significant local events such as the 2003 bushfires and the incident at the Jolimont Centre in 1993. There is something for everyone no matter whether you’re an adult, a kid, a fire fighter, a fan or just a regular tourist. If you’re lucky you’ll see some of the “really big stuff” like the Bronto Skylift or the Merryweather turntable ladder truck. Without fail you’ll find about a dozen vehicles and many smaller items plus a collection of photographs and uniforms.

I discovered this little gem by chance and suspect that it is largely unknown. I’ve been to Canberra many times and perused the tourist brochures more than once in recent years. My brother is a local and even he was unaware. The museum will be moving to larger premises at Kambah in the near future and this will make it bigger and better. I encourage both visitors and locals to drop by one Saturday and for the measly sum of a gold coin donation take in an entertaining and educational experience. If you do it soon you can at the very least double the experience when you go back and see more of the collection in the new location.

Canberra's Fiery Collection


Cardiff South, Australia

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Artist's Description

This is my first writing submission on RedBubble. I recently visited the Canberra Fire Museum and found it very interesting and well worth the visit. My article will tell you more and I’ll post some images for added coverage.

2014 Update:
The Canberra Fire Brigade Museum did have a web site but now it looks as though they use their Facebook page instead and promote themselves as the Fire Brigade Historical Society of the ACT. The Society works to preserve the heritage of fire-fighting in Canberra by restoring historic vehicles and cataloguing photographs and ephemera relating to the provision of fire services in the region. Currently the Museum opens on advertised Saturday mornings or by appointment. Refer to their Facebook events page for details. In 2011 there was a plan to move to Kambah but that is no longer going ahead so they’ll remain at Forrest. You can visit “my Facebook page”:!/Dash... for my catalog of images from my visit in 2011. I can make images available via RedBubble also.

Featured by:
Destination Australia – March 2011

Artwork Comments

  • Terry Everson
  • DashTravels
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