Kids screams of delight at the sight of a fire engine tearing down the street can give the fire sirens a run for their money! And sometimes you would love to take a morning to get your kids up close and personal to one of these urban wonders on a non-emergency basis. Luckily, Los Angeles is chock-full of firefighting museums that will stoke the flames of your child’s interest. Pick one that suits your family, and spend a superfun day learning about the heroes who protect our city from fire, smoke and so much more.
Los Angeles Fire Department Museum & Memorial
If you only visit one fire museum in Los Angeles, let it be the Los Angeles City Fire Department Museum and Memorial in the heart of Hollywood. The biggest station west of the Mississippi when it was opened in 1930, Old Fire Station 27 has been turned into an absolute showpiece for the department. A great collection of old-time trucks, the Fallen Firefighters Memorial, a fire safety education facility, room after room of memorabilia and vintage equipment, a children’s play area and a lovely little gift shop make this the premiere fire museum in town.
Open every Sat. and staffed by retired LAFD volunteers, each little firefighter gets a fire hat and a warm welcome from an old-timer. Admission is free, but tourists are encouraged to sign the guest book and consider a $5 donation to support the museum’s work. Kids can play and explore here all day, and parents enjoy the vintage details in the building’s architecture (the bathrooms are gorgeous!) and the views of Hollywood from the second-floor windows. If you have the time, do pop into the current Hollywood Fire Station next door, where firefighters who aren’t out fighting fires are happy to give kids a tour and let them sit in the real trucks.
Hours: Sat, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Cost: Free but a $5 donation is suggested
1355 N. Caheunga Blvd.
Long Beach Fire Museum
The Long Beach Fire Museum is a total hidden gem! Staffed by retired LBFD firefighters and local history aficionados who do all their own maintenance and upkeep on the vintage fire trucks, the Long Beach Fire Museum is absolutely worth the trip. Located near the Little Cambodia neighborhood of Long Beach, the LBFM has a veritable catalog of great old fire vehicles, including one built from a Model T and a vintage hose truck donated by TV legend Larry Hagman. You and your kids can chat with some wonderful old-timers and if you show up on the right day, they might even take you out for a spin in one of the fire engines.
The museum doesn’t have a dedicated sign, but look for the currently in-use Long Beach Fire Station 10; the museum is housed in the neighboring building with Engine 10 inscribed above the door. Parking is available in the small lot to the right of the building, and if that’s full, there are usually spots on the street.
Hours: Second Sat. of the month, 10 a.m.–3 p.m. (Visitors may also drop by the museum on Wed. from 7:45 a.m.–11:45 a.m. when volunteers assemble to do maintenance on the trucks.)
1464 N. Petersen Ave.
Los Angeles Harbor Fire Museum
San Pedro and Wilmington’s fire history is on display for the public to enjoy inside “Old Fire Station 36,” located within San Pedro’s old city hall, across from the famous Ports O’ Call Village. Trucks from the 1920s are the highlight of the collection, as well as several displays highlighting the special problem of firefighting on the water, including marine firefighting equipment, old-fashioned scuba gear and information about the historically significant Ralph J. Scott fireboat, which is on display two blocks away on the waterfront at working Fire Station 112. Yep, you’ll be wanting to walk down and check that out, too.
Hours: Sat. 10 a.m.–3 p.m.
Cost: Free but donations appreciated
630 Beacon St.
African American Firefighter Museum
Located kitty-corner from the Streamline Moderne Coca-Cola Building, this museum is a monument to the history of civil rights in Los Angeles as much as a fire museum suited for siren-crazy kids. They have one vintage truck downstairs, and the exhibits upstairs document notable African-American firefighters in Los Angeles. This smaller museum is a great stop during a visit to downtown LA.
Note to parents building up their dress-up collections: Most fire museums have red plastic fire hats on hand for little visitors, but the AAFM hands out black fire hats to kiddos who stop by.
Hours: Tues. & Thurs., 10 a.m.–2 p.m.; Sun. 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Cost: Free but donations are appreciated
1401 S. Central Ave.
8:00 – 12:00 AM
Los Angeles County Fire Museum
Not to be outdone by the fire museums of Los Angeles city, the county fire department also has a dedicated fire museum. Open to visitors once each month, the museum is located in southeast Los Angeles county near the intersection of the 605 and the 91. The Bellflower location is known as the museum’s main “showroom,” but there is a huge archive of trucks located off-site in a Southgate warehouse, as well as a engine from 1941 parked at the Artesia Historical District’s Old Fire Station 30. For most parents, the highlights of the museum’s collection are the “Squad 51” and “Engine 51” vehicles from the 1970s NBC series Emergency!
Hours: Wed.-Sat., 10 a.m.–2 p.m.
Cost: $5 donation requested
9834 Flora Vista St.
Old Plaza Firehouse
Next time you’re downtown enjoying the sights and sounds of Olvera Street, be sure to step inside the Old Plaza Firehouse to see what life was like in a Los Angeles firehouse over 100 years ago. This charmingly restored attraction is California Historical Landmark No. 730. The one-room museum includes the original stalls for the fire horses, an ancient horse-drawn fire engine and a collection of vintage fire hats. Definitely a photo-op spot.
Hours: Tue.–Sun., 10 a.m.–3 p.m.
501 N. Los Angeles St.
L.A.’s Annual Fire Service Day
Don’t forget that the second Saturday in May is always Fire Service Day in Los Angeles. Most fire departments organize station open houses where you can chat with local firefighters, see equipment and trucks, and even enjoy a pancake breakfast. Check in with Los Angeles Fire Department and other local departments on their social media channels for updates in the spring.