Renderings of the proposed Bellflower Events Center and Los Angeles County Fire Museum. Images courtesy County of Los Angeles Fire Museum Association.
by Nicole Mooradian
With the Bellflower City Council’s unanimous approval, the combination Bellflower Events Center and Los Angeles County Fire Museum took one step closer to becoming reality on March 28.
The City Council received seven bids. The Ledcor Group won the bid with its $9.6 million concept to design and build the project at 16400 Bellflower Boulevard.
“It’s the culmination of almost three decades of planning and trying and dreaming and hoping and blood, sweat and tears,” said Fire Captain Paul Schneider, president of the County of Los Angeles Fire Museum Association (CLAFMA). “Our fire department will have a really nice, state-of-the-art, modern facility in which to house our role in the American fire service.”
The Ledcor Group’s plan calls for a two-story building with more than 24,000 square feet of usable space. The Fire Museum will be housed on the first floor and have about 8,000 square feet to display apparatus and other historical artifacts, Schneider said. The building’s upstairs will feature a banquet facility with a dinner seating capacity of 300.
“The museum will have use of the entire facility four times per year without cost,” according to Schneider. “Our goal is to hopefully host retirement events there, promotional events, maybe even graduations.”
Preliminary renderings of the exterior show a building with classic firehouse architecture, and the Fire Museum will continue to work with the architects to help fine-tune the floorplan.
“We want to make sure that it looks great,” Schneider said. “It’ll kind of be the cornerstone of the downtown redevelopment of Bellflower.”
The facility will display 10-15 fire apparatus on a rotational basis, though Squad 51 and the Ward La France Engine 51 will have a permanent exhibit.
The current museum and workshop, located in a 10,000 square foot building at 9834 Flora Vista Street in Bellflower, will be used for restoration and additional displays. As part of its deal with the city of Bellflower, CLAFMA purchased the building on Flora Vista Street, which the organization had been leasing since 2008. The city will use the proceeds from the sale to help fund the construction of the new museum and events center.
None of this, however, would have been possible without the support of Los Angeles County Fire Department personnel, Schneider said.
While the Fire Museum receives numerous donations from outside the organization and its corporate sponsors, one of its main sources of funds is the payroll deduction for Los Angeles County Fire Department employees. The Department began offering the voluntary deduction in the mid-1980s, according to retired Fire Captain Dave Boucher, a member of CLAFMA’s Board of Directors and the organization’s historian. At the time, the museum kept its apparatus and artifacts in a small space at Fire Department headquarters and a rented industrial building in South Gate.
“Because the Department has grown so much, people who were giving from their payroll… began to increase their deductions,” Boucher said. “Because we could demonstrate fiscal integrity, the city of Bellflower helped out. They realized we knew what we were doing.”
And after eight years of working with the city, the new museum is well on its way to becoming reality. CLAFMA began meeting with the developer this month to finalize the plans, a process that is estimated to take up to five months. Groundbreaking for the structure is expected in fall 2016; the project is tentatively set to be completed in fall 2017.
“(The museum) was a dream that we had,” Boucher said. “We envisioned this building in the mid-‘80s; we knew this had to happen.
“We’ve been looking forward to this for 30 years.”