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Preserve the historical documents of the American fire service. Facilitate historical review and research to approaches and methods to save human life from destructive fires and mitigate fire losses in the future.


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About Our Work.

The NFHC is a non-profit organization working to preserve the written history of “fire in America.” We support individuals, fire departments, libraries, museums and others who wish to collect, catalog and preserve fire-related writings.

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Featured report

President’s 1947 National Conference on Fire Prevention

In 1947, President Harry Truman called a three-day conference to discuss a plan to reduce losses from fire in the United States. A driving force behind the conference was the fire-related tragedies that occurred the prior year at the Winecoff (Atlanta) and La Salle (Chicago) hotels and at an apartment building in New York City. These three fires killed a total of 217 people.

Conference participants recommended that fire departments focus on the three E’s — engineering, enforcement and education — to prevent fire loss.

Featured artifact

Murrah Building stone

On Oct., 6, 2015, a 33-member Oklahoma delegation visited the NFHC and donated to our collection a piece of granite from the lower portion of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Office Building in Oklahoma City. The building was the site of the April 19, 1995 terrorist bombing where 168 people died and more than 800 others were injured.

It was the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil prior to the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on America. It remains the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in American history.

murrah federal building

An Oklahoma City firefighter searches for survivors at the Murrah Federal Office Building on April 19, 1995.

The Benjamin Franklin Fire Writer’s Award is an annual program sponsored by the National Fire Heritage Center (NFHC). The award recognizes excellence in fire writing and was created in honor of Benjamin Franklin’s unique combination of being a writer and publisher and simultaneously an advocate for fire protection in the community.

About the award

The application period for the Benjamin Franklin Fire Writer’s Award is open for one year and closes on April 17 of each year. The application fee is $17.36 for each individual entry. The NFHC Board of Directors determines the judging panel on an annual basis.

Award categories

Best fictional novel with fire, firefighter or fire-related professional solving problems.

Best non-fiction book that addresses fires, firefighters or other fire professional in solving a specific or general problem.

Best biography of person who had served in any position involving fire protection disciplines.

Best autobiography of person who had served in any position involving fire protection disciplines.

Best single newspaper article addressing a local, regional, state or national fire protection issue.

Best magazine/newspaper article series addressing a local, regional, state or national fire protection issue.

Best media presentation addressing a major fire prevention issue at the local, state, national or international level.

How to nominate a fire writer

Submit the following information:

  • Your name, address, phone number and email address.
  • The name, address and email address of the writer/author you are nominating, along with the name of the publisher.
  • The category (above) you are nominating the writer/author for.
  • A brief narrative of the importance of this fire writing to the fire profession in the United States.

Mail the application package

Send the application package, along with the $17.36 application fee, to:
National Fire Heritage Center
P.O. Drawer 76
Emmitsburg, MD 21727

Questions about the award?

For more information, please contact us.

More about Benjamin Franklin

Franklin as a fire protection advocate

Franklin is recognized as the “Father of the American Fire Service.” He is credited with the creation in 1736 of one of the first fire companies in the country. In almost any reference, whether it is fire prevention, fire suppression, fire engineering or even fire education, his name is invoked as being among the first in this nation to be an advocate of fire and life safety.

Franklin as a printer

However, Franklin was most proud of his chosen trade: a printer. He made his fortune as a writer. Poor Richard’s Almanac was only one of his efforts to convert ideas into words and to act upon them in a meaningful manner. He had a profound impact not only on the fire service but upon our government, the insurance industry, our lifestyles, and the sense of self-assessment that still rings clear in contemporary society.

One of his efforts was to create the JUNTO — a club for mutual improvement — in 1736 which resulted in the creation of the first lending library, the creation of a volunteer fire company, the national postal system, and the insurance industry. All of these institutions exist in contemporary society today.

Franklin left a huge legacy of written products. He encouraged writers to “go on record” as to their beliefs, their observations, and their support of both public and private initiatives. Through the Benjamin Franklin Fire Writers Award, the NFHC encourages today’s fire writers to do the same.


The Hall of Legends, Legacies and Leaders provides individual recognition of significant contributions and distinguished service to the fire and emergency services mission. It is one of the most important initiatives undertaken by the National Fire Heritage Center each year.


Featured book

Firebelle Lillie: The Life and Times of Lillie Coit of San Francisco

By Helen Holdredge, 1967

One of the more popular books in our collection, this book tells the story of Lillie Hitchcock-Coit, who became the mascot of San Francisco’s Knickerbocker Fire Company during the latter half of the 1800’s.

About Lillie Hitchcock-Coit

One afternoon in 1858, the Knickerbocker Fire Company had a short staff on the ropes as it raced to a fire on Telegraph Hill. Because of the shortage of man power, the engine was falling behind two other companies. 15-year-old Lillie Hitchcock, on her way home from school, saw the plight of the Knickerbocker and tossing her books to the ground, ran to a vacant place on the rope. She began to pull, at the same time yelling to the crowd: “Come on, you men! Everybody pull and we’ll beat ‘em!”

Everybody did come and pull and Knickerbocker No. 5 went up the hill and got first water on the fire. From that time on, she caught the volunteer spirit and her father had a hard time keeping his daughter from dashing away every time an alarm was sounded. There never was a parade in which Lillie was not seen atop Knickerbocker No. 5, surrounded by flags and flowers. She was the patroness of all the firemen of her city, rushing to the scene of action. Lillie often said she loved courage in a uniform.

As Lillie became older, she gave up following the engine, but the tie that bound her to the company was as strong as ever, visiting company members when they were ill and sending flowers upon their deaths.

Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill was built and named in her memory.

Source:  Frederick J. Bowlen, Battalion Chief, San Francisco Fire Department as published on The Virtual Museum of San Francisco. http://www.sfmuseum.net/hist1/h-coit.html

Collection of Ideas and Inspirations

Benjamin Franklin Fire Writer’s Award
Benjamin Franklin Fire Writer’s Award
Building fund
Building fund
Sprinkler system
Sprinkler system
The Hall of Legends, Legacies and Leaders
The Hall of Legends, Legacies and Leaders

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Contact Info

  • The National Fire Heritage Center
  • Address: 17701 Creamery Road  Emmitsburg, Maryland 21727
  • Phone: (210) 380-8364
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.