The description and purpose of the County of Los Angeles Fire Museum Association (CLAFMA) has fundamentally changed since its formation in the 1970s. In the 1980s, a group of Los Angeles County firefighters also created what was called a "Muster Association" for the purpose of winning hose laying contests and steam competitions using the Museum’s 1903 American Steam fire engine at "Musters," which were held annually throughout California. Today, no trace of that activity remains, although nearly all of the equipment used during the muster events – including many trophies – are valued pieces of the collection. Instead, the Association’s mission has pivoted to focus on promoting and preserving the history of the fire service through apparatus, equipment and artifact restoration and exhibits. Almost all of its efforts revolve around the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
The Association’s seven-member Board of Directors oversees a collection of over 40 pieces of Los Angeles County Fire Department and other fire agency apparatus, hundreds of fire service artifacts and memorabilia, and a growing archive of photographs and documents, all of which is housed in two separate facilities. All of the fire apparatus and artifact restoration efforts are supported by tax-deductible donations. Most of these donations are generously provided by Fire Department members through an active payroll deduction program.
Their collection really is amazing. One of their more popular collectables is the fully restored 1972 Dodge paramedic squad used in the 1970s hit television series, “Emergency!.” Aside from vehicles, an extensive collection of artifacts, such as wooden encased station alarm bells and early gas masks and talking horns depicted here, retells the story of earlier times.
To help raise funds to realize its vision of creating a public museum to display its impressive inventory of historic fire apparatus, memorabilia, artifacts and photo collections, the James O. Page Memorial Building Fund was established in the fall of 2004, following the untimely passing of the retired LACoFD battalion chief and emergency medical services icon, attorney and publisher. Currently, most of the Association’s apparatus collection is housed and restored at a warehouse facility leased to the Association by Bill DeWitt of Southgate for only 11 cents per square foot! Twice each year, it is open to the public during special promotional events.
During the last four years of his life, Page devoted much of his time to creating and carrying out a master plan for the Association. His love of vintage fire and rescue vehicles gave him the perfect reason to return to his beloved LACoFD, this time as the vice president of the Museum Association’s board of directors and served as such for two years until he assumed the position of president from Paul Schneider. He served as our president for almost two years before his untimely death. He would have been re-elected for sure. Page poured his knowledge, energy and wisdom into the organization to provide financial stability and growth for its strategic plan.
At the core of the plan is the relocation of the museum contents from Southgate to a facility of approximately 50,000 square feet somewhere within the County of Los Angeles jurisdiction. It is also hoped that a new, smaller museum display space may be included in the design of the new Fire Department headquarters facility. The Association is also working with a business consulting firm to develop a new business plan for future adoption. As time marches forward, the Association membership and consultant partners are strategically collaborating to ensure that the Department’s history as a fire service leader is remembered for future generations.
For a complete list of every item housed within the Museum and more information, visit their website at www.clafma.org.