Colchester opens volunteer firefighter museum

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COLCHESTER, Conn. (AP) - Not everyone in Colchester is a firefighter. But chances are everybody knows one.

And that’s why the dedication and grand opening of the Colchester Hayward Volunteer Fire Company Museum drew such a large- and passionate - crowd.

“It was an amazing experience to be in this department, in this building, and I am pleased it is being preserved,” said Fire Chaplain and 34-year member Ted Dole. “As we stand here today, we are in the presence of a great cloud of witnesses: all the men and women of the last 160 years who built this department into what it is today.”

The project began in 2012, when members wanted to find a place where they could display memorabilia and priceless pieces of apparatus like an 1854 Hunneman hand-drawn pumper and restored 1936 Federal fire truck.

The department’s old Main Street firehouse, which was in service from 1854 through 1988, was identified as the site for the museum. That turned out to be the easy part.

“We were handed a building that was a Hollywood façade of a firehouse. We had to do absolutely everything,” said Dave Martin, president of the fire company.

Using the skills of its members and leaning on its deep community roots, the company raised $40,000 to fully restore the station, an effort that organizers said could have topped $100,000 using traditional means.

Though the “uncoupling” - the fire department equivalent of a ribbon-cutting that uses a hose instead - marked the public’s first chance to peruse the artifacts, the fire company has been giving private tours to students for about two weeks.

In addition to vintage gear and communication equipment, the displays include fire badges, photographs, newspaper clippings, bylaws and other materials.

Officials haven’t yet set formal hours but expect to open the museum every time there’s a community event, with rotating exhibits.

“This building, from this day forward, will serve as a reminder that dedicated members serve their community in good times and bad,” Chief Walter Cox said. “Here today in Colchester, we open to the public our museum and embrace Colchester’s rich firefighting history.”

Anthony Skut, who has been with the department for 43 years and served as project manager for the museum, said Sunday’s reveal has been long anticipated.

“We had a vision of what it should look like and what should be in here, and it worked. It was a great effort,” he said.

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Information from: Norwich Bulletin, http://www.norwichbulletin.com

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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