The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 made clear the importance of a highly dedicated and professional fire service as the city rebuilt from ashes. The rebuilding effort attracted renowned architects whose outstanding structures helped make Chicago a world travel destination and host of the Columbian Exposition of 1893. Coming of age as the nation's transportation hub, meatpacker, cultural and commercial center during this period, the city and its fire department faced continuous challenges, such as the Iroquois Theater fire, the Eastland ship disaster and devastating conflagrations in the Stockyards and elsewhere.
Completing the transformation from horsepower to motorized apparatus in the 1920's, the fire departments of Chicago and suburban communities progressed rapidly in the later part of the 20th century with computerized communications, new firefighting technologies and the vast expansion of emergency medical services.
A desire to chronicle and preserve the historical record of all developments led a group of fire buffs and veteran firefighters to come together in 1997 to establish a museum dedicated to the history of firefighting in metropolitan Chicago and provide an educational forum for succeeding generations to understand how emergency situations were confronted throughout history so they may be better prepared and equipped to meet future emergencies head on.