The next time you find yourself in Wichita, be sure to check out the Kansas Firefighters Museum. Tucked away in a nondescript building on East Douglas Avenue, this hidden gem is a must-see for anyone who appreciates history—or simply enjoys a good story.

 

The museum chronicles the history of firefighting in Kansas from its earliest days to the present. Visitors can see firsthand how technology and equipment have changed over the years, as well as learn about some of the most famous (and not-so-famous) fires that have taken place in the state. Best of all, admission is free!

 

Firefighting in Kansas dates back to the days of early settlement, when communities would appoint one or two men to serve as their fire wardens. These wardens were responsible for sounding the alarm in case of fire and keeping an eye on potential fire hazards. They were also responsible for maintaining the community’s supply of firewood and water—two vital resources for fighting fires.

 

As settlement increased and communities grew larger, so too did the need for more organized fire protection. In 1866, Wichita became home to one of the first paid fire departments west of the Mississippi River. Today, there are more than 400 fire departments serving communities across Kansas.

 

Throughout its history, Kansas has been no stranger to destructive fires. In 1865, a fire broke out at Fort Leavenworth, destroying more than 100 buildings and causing $1 million in damage (equivalent to more than $15 million today). Just two years later, another fire ripped through downtown Wichita, leveling nearly every business in its path.

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In more recent years, wildfires have caused extensive damage across parts of Kansas. In 2007, wildfires swept through Greensburg, burning more than 95% of the town and leaving only five buildings standing. And in 2017, wildfires scorched nearly 1,000 square miles of land in central and western Kansas—an area larger than the state of Rhode Island.

 

The next time you’re looking for something fun and educational to do in Wichita, be sure to pay a visit to the Kansas Firefighters Museum. This hidden gem provides a fascinating glimpse into the history of firefighting in our state—and best of all, admission is free!

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