Rowan Museum presents ‘Where’s The Fire’ exhibit

CarolinaFireJournal -

01/10/2013 -

The Rowan Museum in Salisbury, N.C. opened a new exhibit on Sept. 30, 2012. “Where’s the Fire” acknowledges the history of all the Rowan County departments, fire and EMS, and the related personnel through written, photographic records and physical artifacts.

The opening was the culmination of over a year of work. Working with the Rowan Firemen’s Association, items of historical significance were collected by departments and placed on loan for the three month display. Response was widespread and a sub-committee was developed to put a format together to capture and display the items in an educational format that would be informative and fun for all ages.


This young child poses in front of the fire truck background. A custom step was built to help replicate a truck. Real reflector lights and the ladder protector were added to give it a 3D appearance.

Terry Holt, board member and exhibit coordinator for the museum, worked with the sub-committee and led the group in developing an outstanding display. Some of the pictures provided show the manner in which items were received and then how they were placed in to a creative presentation to meet the educational setting desired.

Artifacts began arriving at the museum in September. Some of the items were returning to the public eye after many years of storage or private collections. The stories that came with the equipment from the firefighters were even more interesting. Recollections of rookie years, retired firemen, training staff, fire competitions as well as significant fires and rescues surrounded many of the delivered items. Space restrictions prevented the acceptance of some items — hose reel, operating water gong system. The largest single piece was a 30 gallon rolling extinguisher.

There was an exceptional range of items covering every era of firefighting. The following items are samples of some of the items on display and range from turn of the century to the present: buckets, helmets, uniforms, hydrants, attic ladder, Pompier ladder, fire extinguishers, and communications equipment.

Written histories were provided by most departments and consolidated to a notebook for visitors to peruse. A full written history on the City of Salisbury Fire Department through 2010 was provided by a retired Salisbury fireman. This will be soon be published for all interested readers to enjoy.

Banner used for backdrop display.

Many of the photographs were converted to digital format and shown on a rolling computer display. A history of firefighting video was loaned from the Wilburg Museum in Williamsburg, Virginia and is available for view by visitors on an adjacent computer.

Opening day included a special celebration held in the Messinger Room and conducted by Deborah Horne, Rowan County Fire Inspector and Investigator. The room was decorated with turnout gear, many pictures and scrapbooks from all of the Rowan departments. Ms.Horne spoke about the history of fire fighting and Rowan County. She recognized those that had been lost in the line of duty in Rowan County and all other past firefighters. A reception was held for the opening day and all that attended enjoyed the food, fun, fellowship and displays. Much time was spent recalling and reliving some of the old apparatus and their use.

The exhibit includes an area for visitors of all ages to put on authentic fire gear and have their picture made. The backdrop is a seven by seven foot picture of a rear of a fire truck racing to a fire. This and the associated turnout gear area, interactive lights and fire bells, pre-recorded radio activity all make the experience more realistic and enjoyable.

In addition to the photos shared with this article there are other areas visitors will be able to see. There are recognition areas for our firefighters lost in the line of duty. Additionally there are pictorial accounts of major fires that caused severe damage and loss but helped Rowan to learn and grow in technique and methods of preventing and fighting fires.

Special thanks go to the Rowan Museum for allowing this exhibit to take place. The museum guidance provided by Terry Holt, Elliott Mathis and Grady Hall that helped to make the exhibit come to life and give Rowan County another great exhibit of which to be proud.

Since the planning of the exhibit began we have seen a revitalized interest in recognizing and honoring our fire and EMS personnel. A parade was held at the end of Fire Prevention week to involve all Rowan departments. There were 36 pieces of equipment, both old and new, that paraded down Main Street. The parade ended at the museum and all firefighters were welcomed for a tour of their exhibit.

We have also had a visit by Mike Legeros, fire historian for North Carolina. He has posted several articles: one regarding the sirens we have on display and one on the old Call Box system Salisbury used. Please check these out at

There is hope to establish a fire museum for Rowan County in the near future. There is interest from many and the response to this exhibit with local support and artifacts will spur on this effort.

“Where’s The Fire” exhibit is open to the public daily at no charge (donations accepted) thru Jan. 13, 2013. The Rowan Museum is located at 202 North Main Street, Salisbury, N.C. Go to for museum hours and days of operation.

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