About the National Fire Heritage Center
The National Fire Heritage Center includes the National Fire Heritage Archives, The National Fire Museum System, and the National Fire Heritage Foundation. These organizations within the Center are 501 (c)3 nonprofit organizations all working to preserve the history of “fire in America”. Our preservation efforts not only include firefighting, but also fire prevention, fire protection engineering, fire equipment manufacturing, and any discipline associated with fire protection.
We support researchers, historians, individuals, and organizations interested in fire protection. This includes municipal and rural firefighting, aviation fire fighting, wildland firefighting, firefighting in the military, design and engineering, architecture, fire training and academic programs, rail and utilities, equipment manufacturing, regulations and standards, fire equipment distributors, and any other area of fire protection. Prior to the establishment of the NFHC, there was no centralized, coordinated archival of fire protection in the United States. Much of the written history of “fire in America” is challenging to locate and sadly, much information is permanently lost.
The National Fire Heritage Center is the result of a study done by the U.S. Fire Administration where it identified that a “need to collect, preserve, and provide access to the historical records of the fire service/fire protection disciplines in the United States.” In spite of the study, the project never acquired government funding. However, Chief Ronny Coleman of California and several other interested fire protection experts took it upon themselves to create an independent non-profit organization called the National Fire Heritage Center. The organization has expanded from the original mission to protect perishable items, to include three dimensional objects and other important fire protection materials. The Center also is home for the Fire Service Hall of Legends, and the Benjamin Franklin Fire Writer’s Award. Today, the National Fire Heritage Center is a vibrant organization supported by private donations and grants. The Archive is growing so rapidly, that the Board of Trustees has been given the task of finding a new home - from which the NFHC will continue to preserve the history the American Fire Service for generations to come.
The NFHC is both a fire history archive and a documentation preservation project. Our collection of over 15,000 cataloged items consists of written documents and three-dimensional items donated by the public and private sectors. Materials are cataloged, preserved and made available to NFHC visitors and online researchers.
The following is a partial list of fire industry leaders’ personal libraries donated to the National Fire Heritage Center for safe keeping in perpetuity. The significance of these collections, per Frank Schmersal Chief Archivist at the NFHC, “is that within each collection you can see what literature influenced the thought process for each of these industry leaders.” Future students and researchers will be able to trace the development of change and innovation within the fire service community, and fire industry, by reviewing and linking these collections together to form a variety of new narratives.
Why our work is important.
Gaining access to historical fire-related writings can be hard. Prior to the establishment of the NFHC in 2005, there was no centralized, coordinated archival activity in the United States to ensure that important fire materials were saved in an accessible way. Much of the written history of “fire in America” was challenging to locate or, unfortunately, forever lost. Historical documentation that did exist was held in private collections where access was difficult or materials were not properly preserved.
Where we’re located.
The National Fire Heritage Center (NFHC) is operated and managed by Executive Officers, a Board of Directors, Trustees, and various key personnel.
Day-to-day operation of the NFHC is overseen by our Executive Director and Archivist.
Executive Director, Samuel O. Goldwater
Frank Schmersal, Archivist Emeritus
Richard "Dick" Lee DeVore, Jr., Chief Archivist
Media inquiries: Christopher L. Baker, Director/Public Information Officer, 209-277-9268 (cell)
William D. Killen
Vice President for Finance
Rodney A. Slaughter
Vice President for Operations
Willie G. Shelton, Jr.
Stuart M. Nathan
Paul D. Brooks
Immediate Past President
Ronny J. Coleman
Board of Directors
Christopher L. Baker
Michael E. Cox, Jr.
Christopher E. Marrion
Ronald J. Siarnicki
Rodney A. Slaughter, Chair
Robert C. Andrews
Stephen P. Austin
Donald N. Briggs
Stephen Stuart Carter
Thomas L. Herman
Mark W. Lamplugh, Jr.
Bruce H. Varner
W. Curt Weldon
Kenneth S. Wyvill, Jr.