A year after the end of the Napa Community Redevelopment Agency doomed the Napa Firefighters Museum, the volunteer operation remains open but has begun the long process of packing its inventory.
Volunteers are meticulously cataloging the artifacts, which span Napa’s firefighting history, said museum president Jeff Hunter.
“We’re labeling things so we know what is in what box and container and in what location,” Hunter said. “We’re going to wind up with stuff at multiple locations.”
“All these things are local artifacts,” he said. “They were purchased here and used here. We know their history.”
“We’ve done a lot of prep work,” Hunter said. Volunteers have picked up storage containers and plan to put most of the museum’s contents into storage at fire stations and the corporation yard.
Some items have already been moved into storage, while others that were on loan have been returned to their owners, Hunter said. Some duplicate items were donated to a museum in Sonoma.
Despite the packing, the museum remains open four days a week and the average visitor would likely not notice that anything was missing at this point, Hunter said.
In February, the museum will welcome a fire science class from Santa Rosa Junior College for the last time, Hunter said. The college has made the museum tour part of its curriculum for the past five years, giving students a look at firefighting history.
The museum has been located inside a historic building on Main and Pearl streets for the past 16 years or so. The building had been leased to the nonprofit for a nominal amount by the Napa Community Redevelopment Agency, which ceased to exist as of last February when the state’s decision to dissolve redevelopment agencies took effect.
Since then, the city, which is tasked with winding down the agency’s business, has been working to liquidate its assets, including the Firefighters Museum building. According to early reports, the state would reap the revenue from a sale.
Hunter said he is aware of two parties interested in the building, but thinks the museum may be able to stay in it through October or November, at the latest.
“Right now, as I predicted, things are moving at the speed of government,” Hunter said. In this case, delay has been a good thing, he said.
Museum volunteer Lee Mitchell hopes a solution can be found to save the museum, which he said benefits locals and visitors alike. Mitchell said he thinks there is a way to keep the museum open in another location, possibly by using some tourism tax dollars.
“We’ve become such a tourist attraction over the years, I wondered if the council would consider using (tourism) tax to buy a property for us,” Mitchell said. “We’re one of the best fire history museums in the state.”
Mitchell said he has looked into grants that could keep the museum open, but has yet to find any for which the city would qualify. Hunter has spoken with U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson about the possibility of creating a museum co-op in Napa in the future.
“We’d love to have a centralized location, but property downtown is so expensive,” Hunter said.
When a move-out date is in sight, the volunteer-operated museum will likely host packing and cleaning parties, Hunter said.
For now the museum, located at 1201 Main St., remains open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. Admission is free.