ROCK HILL The safety net that Rock Hill Fire Chief Mike Blackmon used during his firefighter training in 1977 is hanging on the wall of the citys new downtown museum dedicated to preserving firefighters history.
Before the 1980s, Rock Hill used the safety nets as a training device to help firefighters overcome their fear of heights. The life safety nets were also used to rescue people jumping from burning buildings.
Leaping from a building onto the net often did more harm than good, Blackmon said, so departments stopped using the nets. Now, the net is on display with other fire and emergency personnel memorabilia inside a museum in the works at the fire departments administrative headquarters on Elizabeth Lane.
Rock Hills firefighters have built and designed almost everything inside the museum.
Theyve taken a lot of ownership of this; a lot of pride was put into this, Blackmon said. Theyre really excited about it, too.
The museum isnt open to the public yet and firefighters have more work to do inside, he said.
So far, all the money spent on the fire history museum has come from fundraisers and private donations. Blackmon has been leading the museum effort for the past seven or eight years, he said, with his team raking in close to $10,000 for the city project.
Most of the museums attractions are aimed toward children, he said, but the space is not a playground. Inside, kids will be able to slide down a fire pole that Rock Hills department formerly used. The department also has child-size firefighter jackets, hats and gloves for kids to try on.
Historical information on each piece in the museum will help visitors learn about Rock Hills rich firefighter tradition, he said.
The museum houses a 1924 fire engine thats been restored and hand painted by Rock Hill Fire Capt. Pat Amos. A placard on the engine explains the vehicles history including the death of Frank Hamilton, who had a heart attack while driving the truck to a Rock Hill fire in 1936.
One of the museums oldest pieces is a 19th century bell that was used as a fire alarm more than 100 years ago.
Rock Hills firefighters also have built a display case for memorabilia honoring emergency workers who lost their lives on Sept.11, 2001.
Before the museum can open, Blackmon said, a few major projects inside must be completed, including renovating the buildings bathroom and installing heating and air conditioning. The fire department started a non-profit organization to accept donations for the museum.
Firefighters could use help, he said, from anybody interested in donating money or services to finish the museum. For more information call 803-329-7220.
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