This is truly one of those tucked-away gems that was hiding right under my nose. To find Carmel Fire Buffs & Fire Department Museum, I had to look at a map and zoom in really closely, look at the address, then look at my map again. Still, I was puzzled as to where exactly it was. I’d been up and down Main Street and all around the Carmel Art and Design District dozens of times. Where the heck was this place?
Located at 210 1st Ave. SW, you’ll know you’re at Carmel Fire Buffs Museum when you spot a huge, vintage fire truck outside. A wooden Dalmatian wearing a firefighter hat greets you at the door. Walk inside, and you’re in fire museum paradise.
The museum is run by Jim Martin, a firefighter who has been retired for more than 30 years, and a fire buff in his own right. All of the items in the museum are things that he’s collected. He doesn’t charge admission (the museum is free to everyone). He doesn’t keep set hours (you’d be wise to call before visiting to make sure Jim is there and the museum is open: 317-370-6437). He also doesn’t have a website, but he does have a clip board and guest book at the front entrance where he collects the names of the folks who have stopped through for a peek at the collection. This is a great museum for firefighter lovers, but also homeschool groups, elementary school classes and people looking to learn more about the history of the fire department in Carmel and Hamilton County.
This is not a look-but-don’t-touch museum. You are free to touch, look, photograph and explore. Visitors are encouraged to ride in the vintage fire truck that is parked in the garage, wear the firefighter hats, ride in the toy truck and also the vintage fire truck that is parked inside. Being inside this museum is like being at your own, personal Touch-a-Truck event, but without the crowds and in a climate-controlled environment.
By the way: Did you know that this museum is available for birthday parties? It is, indeed. You can rent the whole museum for a couple of hours, and Jim will also throw in a ride around the block on one of the fire trucks for your guests. It’s kind of amazing to see a whole group of people piled on the back of a vintage fire truck, rolling down the streets of Carmel.
Jim Martin is happy to answer any questions you have as you explore Carmel Fire Buffs Museum, or tell you stories about life as a firefighter. He’s also happy to just hang back as you explore the small but jam-packed museum by yourself. No pressure either way. It isn’t a huge museum, but it’s filled with history and nostalgia, and is a great place to discover a little piece of Indiana history that you might not have known about.
Carmel Fire Buffs & Fire Department Museum
210 1st Avenue SW