A leather firefighter helmet from the Alberni Fire Department, circa 1950, has been ‘adopted’ by the Port Alberni Professional Firefighters’ Association as part of a unique program at the Alberni Valley Museum. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

A leather firefighter helmet from the Alberni Fire Department, circa 1950, has been ‘adopted’ by the Port Alberni Professional Firefighters’ Association as part of a unique program at the Alberni Valley Museum. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Port Alberni firefighters adopt a piece of their heritage from AV Museum

Historic helmet is part of a new Adopt an Artefact program

The Port Alberni Professional Firefighters’ Association has ‘adopted’ a piece of its own history.

There is a vintage leather firefighters’ helmet currently on exhibit at the Alberni Valley Museum that used to belong to someone in the Alberni Fire Department. The helmet was included in the museum’s unique Adopt an Artefact fundraising program introduced in December.

The Adopt an Artefact program gives people and organizations an opportunity to sponsor an artefact for a year in support of the Alberni Vallevy Museum. The firefighters’ association adopted the helmet “to honour our members who paved the way before us,” said PAFFA president Travis Cross.

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“It’s good to preserve the history and heritage of the fire department and this is one small way we can do it.”

The helmet is a memento from one of the first fire departments in the Alberni Valley. Made of thick black leather, it features a beaver-shaped brass shield holder and a front piece with “AFD” cut out in red leather.

The helmet was discovered in 1950-51 in the attic of a house on Gertrude Street when the house was being torn down. Leather helmets, according to the AV Museum, were used prior to the 1940s; after that plastic and metal helmets became more popular. There is a photo in the exhibit of members from the Alberni Fire Department, circa 1920, with two similar leather helmets displayed in the background.

The firefighters association has first rights to adopt the helmet again next year, and Cross hopes it will become an annual tradition.

The museum has a catalogue of items available for adoption. More than a dozen items have already been ‘claimed’ by individuals and organizations. More information is online at http://playinpa.ca/adopt-artefact/ or ask for a catalogue in person at the museum gift shop during regular operating hours.

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