For Hometown News
Everyone has heard the story of a family losing something, such as a family pet, only to be reunited years later by some miracle chance.
Recently the New Smyrna Beach Fire Department encountered the same kind of experience. It all started when Fire Chief David McCallister received an email that read, "This needs to come home!." The email was a link to a listing for a 1920s era leather fire helmet from New Smyrna Beach up for auction.
"I made contact with the seller and was surprised to find out he was in Virginia," Chief McCallister said. "I asked how he obtained the helmet and he said he bought it at a swap meet in Mt. Dora while he was visiting Florida."
Chief McCallister made an arrangement with the seller to hold the helmet from auction for 48 hours in exchange for $1,000 to buy and ship the helmet. The helmet also came with an engineer's badge and an original photo of the helmet being worn on a firefighter sitting on top of Fire Engine No. 1 of New Smyrna.
"I knew we had a unique opportunity to own a piece of our history," Chief McCallister said. "Time was of the essence, so we reached out to our members in the Fire Department and various other departments citywide for donations."
Within eight hours the funds had been raised to buy the helmet.
"We received donations from all over the city," the chief said. "Donations came from multiple departments, the City Commission and mayor, and even the Balloon and Sky Fest Foundation."
The helmet is believed to be a Cairns leather fire helmet. After contacting MSA, the parent company of Cairns, it was found the helmet could date back to the turn of the century up to the mid-20s. The Fire Department has several old photos from the 1920s where you can see firefighters wearing the same helmet that displays the exact leather shield with "NSFD" on the front. Years later it was changed to "NSBFD."
"This is just a really neat and iconic piece to preserve our history," Chief McCallister said. "We can't express how thankful we are to everyone who donated."
The items will be on display at the new central fire station lobby that is under construction and slated for completion this fall.