Ocala Fire Rescue hosted a ceremony Monday evening to celebrate the opening of its new museum, which houses items that trace the history of the department.
The event started at 5:30 p.m. at the Ocala Fire Rescue Administration building, and Fire Chief Brad Clark and Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn both spoke at the event.
Brian Stoothoff, a retired assistant fire chief, has been a main proponent in starting the museum.
“It’s been a dream that’s finally coming to reality after all these years,” he said.
Stoothoff said he first thought of opening a fire museum when he became a firefighter with the department 32 years ago. One of his first assignments: cleaning up old storage areas.
“Myself and a few other firefighters, we were amazed at what we were finding inside some cardboard boxes and old dusty filing cabinets,” he said.
At 131 years old, Ocala Fire Rescue is one of the oldest fire departments in Florida.
The museum’s items span the entire administration building and serve as a visual timeline of firefighter history.
The oldest pieces – some of which date back to the 19th century – are displayed at the front and gradually become more modern. An 1869 fire hydrant and a piece of battered World Trade Center steel from the Sept. 11 attacks are among some of the pieces in the collection.
The museum is now open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and provides maps for self-guided tours.
WUFT News reporter Diana Illingworth contributed to this report.