Fire Museum of Greater Chicago settles into new home

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The managers of the Fire Museum of Chicago show off their new institution, located in an old fire house on the city's South Side. (Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune)

Mostly unobstructed is a giant mural of Corrigan fighting a fire, which used to hang in City Hall. There are street-corner fireboxes still capable of clanging with gusto, and there is a wall-mounted wooden-peg fire map of the city.

An old "joker stand" borders on interactive. The communications hub that would route firefighters to blazes — so named because of its early unreliability with addresses — plays through a fire scenario, explaining how crews would be alerted and dispatched.

You can see it in action in a video from a couple of years ago by searching YouTube for "Chicago fire joker stand."

Back issues of the museums newsletter, which McMenamin edits, trace the progress of the museum through the years, run stories on fire history and trivia, and contain notices like this: "Apparatus Committee wants and needs: 6 Ton Floor Jack."

Kugelman said "dollars" are the most pressing overall need, but more space wouldn't be bad either. The museum has a dozen more old vehicles that it pays to keep in storage.

"I drool when I see one of these auto dealerships closing down," he said.

Another desire is some younger blood to help the retired firemen who got the museum going. "At 69, I'm one of the younger guys," McMenamin said.

And then there's the battle every museum faces all the time, the one for attention.

"We need coverage," Kugelman said. "People don't know we're here. Some guys in the Fire Department don't know we're here."

Now, perhaps, they will.

Twitter @StevenKJohnson

Fire Museum of Greater Chicago

When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., fourth Saturday of every month

Where: 5218 S. Western Ave..

Tickets: Free; more information at 877-225-7491 and

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