About our fire service history collection

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.

Our collection is categorized into the following media formats:
Art and artifacts
Audio
Books
Charts and graphs
Documents
Maps
Photography
Reports
Video

Download our collection catalog file

Our collection as of September 2019 consists of over 15,000 items that document the history of the American fire service and fire protection disciplines. Download the catalog file (ZIP, 3 MB) to search our collection.

Should you find an item of interest, please contact us to see how we can assist you with your research.

Download The Catalog File

Collection Spotlight

Historical Fire Tactics

These text books were written by Chief Lloyd Layman, who had a profound impact on firefighting tactics. He introduced the revolutionary use of water fog application as an indirect method of fire attack during a presentation called “Little Drops of Water” at the 1950 Fire Department Instructors Conference.

Historical Interviews 

Three of the 54 interview books that the late Chief Harvey Eisner used to record interview notes for his report of the Sept. 11, 2001 World Trade Center terrorist attack.

Historical Log Books

The log book of the Arlington County (Virginia) Fire Department showing the Sept. 11, 2001 entry for the attack on the Pentagon, and the run sheet from the Shanksville (Pennsylvania) Fire Department after the plane crash later that morning.

Fire Protection Antiques

The NFHC has an extensive collection of fire sprinkler heads, including the Parmelee fire sprinkler, circa 1878. The first automatic fire sprinkler system was invented by Henry S. Parmelee in 1874 to protect his piano factory.

Historical Books

Two books from the “Our Firemen” series, documenting the history of the Brooklyn, New York (1892) and Baltimore, Maryland (1898) fire departments.

Historical Newspaper Clippings

The front page of The Chicago American, from Dec. 2, 1958, reporting on the Our Lady of the Angels school fire that killed 92 children and three nuns the day before. This fire led to codes changes that required enclosing open stairwells with fire doors..

How to contribute items to our collection

We’re always looking for items to add to our collection! If you have an item that you believe documents the history of “fire in America” and are interested in donating it to the NFHC, please contact us and our archivist will be in touch. 

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.

The NFHC has changed all of that. Today, our organization works to assure the collection and proper preservation of these historical materials and that access is available to all who wish to know the story of “fire in America.” 

Other fire history collections on the web

The NFHC recommends the following organizations as trusted and reliable sources for information about the history of fire in America:
The Fire Museum Network
Society for the Preservation and Appreciation of Antique Fire Motor Apparatus in America
International Fire Buff Associates, Inc.
National Emergency Training Center Library