Hundreds of artifacts currently housed in downtown Napa’s firefighters museum will soon be farmed out to new locations, including sites where the public may no longer be able to enjoy them.
With the dissolution of the Napa Community Redevelopment Agency comes the end of the Napa Firefighters Museum, which has been situated in a historic building on Main and Pearl streets for the past 16 years.
The museum has been renting the building from the agency for a “nominal amount,” according to firefighters. But now the city, which inherited the building when the redevelopment agency dissolved, will have to sell it on orders from the state.
No one knows for sure when that time will come, but the volunteers who run the museum, including active and retired Napa Fire Department personnel, are preparing for the move.
“We’ve acquired some packing supplies,” said museum board president Jeff Hunter. Packing will likely begin this month, he said.
The nonprofit museum doesn’t charge admission, operating solely on donations and T-shirt sales, which last year brought in less than $1,000. With so little cash to work with, finding a new location has proved difficult, firefighters said.
The museum sees an average of 30 visitors each day during the summer and about 18 in the winter, Hunter said.
Without a new location, the museum’s artifacts will be split up amongst the city’s four fire stations and several other locations, Hunter said.
One of the city’s retired firefighters will likely donate his time to make display cases to house artifacts at the firehouses and the fire prevention office, Hunter said. The museum will likely need to purchase materials.
“What a lot of people don’t realize is that the fire station is like a police station, it’s a public building,” Hunter said. “We have impromptu tours all the time.”
Other items will be donated to a firefighting museum in Sonoma, Hunter said. Items that are on loan from the public will be returned if their owners want them. Reaching all the owners is a “daunting task.”
The trucks and engines, including an 1859 Jeffers Hand Pumper, a 1926 American LaFrance engine, numerous horse carts, a 1913 Model T Ford Coupe and more, will be stored at the city’s corporate yard and in some fire stations until a permanent home can be found.
Former Redevelopment Manager Jennifer LaLiberté said it’s unclear when the former agency’s real estate assets, including a loading dock behind Kohl’s department store, could be sold.
An oversight board, consisting of members appointed by city, county and state agencies, will begin meeting the first week in April to start the process of winding down the business of the agency.
They will likely not discuss what to do with the assets until May at the soonest, LaLiberté said.
For the time being, the museum remains open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. some Saturdays.