“All of these fire trucks were just one guy’s?”  The boy’s eyes were wide with wonder at the vast number of fire truck models, toys and collectibles displayed in the huge glass wall spanning the width of the fire station’s kitchen and living area at Denton’s Central Fire Station downtown.  “His house musta been huge!” he exclaimed.

Elsewhere, a woman could barely hold her laughter in check as she dug the camera phone from her purse.  Blonde curls and the bottom-half of a serious expression were all that was visible of her little girl striking a pose for a picture beneath a fireman’s hat and bunker gear, the protective clothes and boots real firefighters wear during real-life firefights.

Out in the truck bay, he pulled himself up and into the cab by the big steering wheel.   Gadgets and gauges the likes of which he’d never before seen in a vehicle fired his imagination.  He placed both hands on the wheel.  His deep voice started low then rose in pitch and fervor imitating a siren.  He turned the steering wheel this way and that, all the while his expression one of focused determination as he heroically maneuvered the giant fire truck, lights flashing and siren screaming, along an imaginary highway.  In the midst of his fantasy, a real firefighter slipped into the passenger seat, pushed a button and flipped a switch.  Suddenly, red and white strobes reflected off the bay walls and the real siren revved in crescendo.  In the red engine’s driver’s seat, this kid at heart (forty-something and at least six-foot-tall when standing) was transformed into a boy on a wonderful adventure.

These are real stories I witnessed during the course of one afternoon.  They are three among hundreds DentonFireMuseum72-14WEBof similar ones that have delighted Denton Firefighter Museum visitors since it opened a decade ago in the Denton Fire Department headquarters on the corner of Bell Avenue and Hickory Street.  The museum chronicles the history of firefighting from the early 1800s to present day and includes gear, apparatus and all manner of firefighting equipment.  Its compilation of photographs, firefighter logs and media coverage tell stories of great fires across Denton’s history and the heroes who fought them.  Interactive scenes invite visitors to touch and feel, like donning firefighting gear or trying your muscles at lifting a fire hose.  An actual piece of the World Trade Center reminds visitors not to forget 9-11 and pays tribute to members of the firefighter brotherhood who fell that dark day.

Surprised to discover this downtown museum, free to the public with firefighters standing by eager to tell stories and give tours when they are not on call?  You are not alone.  At the moment, when driving or walking by Central Fire Station, the idea of meandering inside is a bit intimidating, if it crosses your mind at all.  It is a working fire station:  bay doors open, trucks at the ready with bunker gear organized at firefighter positions.   Everything is ready to move in a matter of seconds when an emergency call comes in.

Nothing about the building’s exterior says, “Come on in, and look around,” because the Denton Firefighters Museum has no sign.

DTN-1037-FFM-300x600The “Sign Us Up Contest” is about to change this.

The CVB team and Denton Fire Department are partnering up to address the sign-less situation.  Until now, it has not made sense to invest in and install cool signage that would have to come right back down to accommodate construction during the Hickory Street improvement project.  Since Hickory Street is finished, the time to move forward has arrived.

The Denton Firefighters Museum sign will be installed by year-end in front of the fire station near the sidewalk at the southwest corner of Bell and Hickory, visible to motorists on either major road.  The sign’s actual design, though, is the big mystery and the crux of the Contest.  We are confident the perfect sign design will rise to the top among Denton’s creative community.  In return for their creativity, the winner will earn an amazing “Day with Denton Firefighters” experience including a ride-along with the firefighters and a firefighter-created meal shared with them at the station. The winner will also have permanent recognition for their design brilliance on the actual sign and bragging rights for a lifetime.

#dentoning in the Denton Firefighters Museum enriches, educates, entertains and makes good memories.  It’s an original, independent Denton experience most people don’t even know they are missing.  But, when the new sign is in place, people will discover this hidden Denton gem and start spreading the word.

Visit the “Sign Us Up Contest” for details.  Entry deadline is November 20th.

Images By Mike Mezeul