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Memories surge back with fire museum opening

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

The new Hays Fire Department Museum brings back memories for former firefighters in the department.

Jerry Haynes, who retired a year ago to the day of Saturday's grand opening after 38 years of service, spoke of the brotherhood firefighters enjoy.

"Just how close the guys really get, the camaraderie of the guys," Haynes said. "When a fire broke out, you knew somebody had your back. You learn what the other person is going to do in a certain situation. You know they're going to be there, what they're going to do.

"That's part of the camaraderie," he added. "You get into a situation not normal for everyday life, that's what makes the guys closer."

The museum is a partnership of the Hays Firemen's Relief Association and the Ellis County Historical Society. After four years of preparation, the newest addition to the Ellis County Historical Society complex in the 100 block of West Seventh has the front of the building replicating the old fire station at 11th and Fort. Inside are two vintage fire engines, a 1927 International and a 1936 Ford pumper.

Haynes said the 1936 fire engine was used at the airport when he first started on the job. The department was at the old location his first two years before moving. Now, people can see what equipment Haynes and other firefighters used back in the day.

"All this stuff was sitting around," Haynes said. "Now, it's coming back, and people see what we did, what we used."

Vince Dreiling, who was Hays fire chief from 1952 to 1956, and was a volunteer firefighter before that after World War II, knows well both engines on display.

"When I look at the two pieces of equipment in here, I touched every inch of it in my days," Dreiling said. "All the equipment -- the ladders, the hose -- that brings back good memories to me."

The 1927 International on display was the second motorized fire engine in the department. It pumped 500 gallons per minute and was bought for $1,700.

The 1936 Ford pumper was the third motorized fire engine for the city. It also pumped 500 gallons per minute and cost $2,240.

There was a newspaper clipping on the wall about the first motorized fire engine in the city. It was purchased in 1920 for $3,000, and had two fire extinguishers, two ladders and 600 feet of hose.

My, how times have changed, said current Hays firefighter Darin Myers, on the job since 2001.

"It really puts it in perspective -- from the gear, to the trucks, to how we respond, what our mentality is -- how it changes over 100 years," he said. "Most of the stuff in here my generation hasn't even used. A lot of the tools are still the same, they've just kind of evolved."

The museum is dedicated to firefighters young and old. There are pictures of firefighters on a wall in the museum.

"This is how they will be remembered," Myers said. "I hope 50 years down the road, when I'm retired, we have a group of guys -- like we have today -- try to remember what we've done."