The Portland Fire Museum, across the street from Mercy Hospital, was opened in 1974 by the Portland Veteran Fireman’s Association to house over a hundred years worth of firefighting related artifacts, photos, scrapbooks, and equipment. In 2002, Edward Marks, president of PVFA, and firefighter Michael Daicy, department historian, started a drive to grant greater public access to the museum’s large collection.
Irishmen and Irish-Americans have long been members of the Portland Fire Department. In the late 1850s, when the fire department consisted of volunteers, such Irishmen as Hugh Carney, James Jennings, Michael McFarland, Michael Welsh, William Moles, James McMain, and William H. Murphy had joined the ranks. In 1911, Patrick H. Flaherty became the first Irishman to become Portland Fire Chief. He was “chief engineer” until 1915.
Between 1945-1972, six Portland firefighters died in the line of duty, all Irish. They were Private Thomas L. Walsh, Captain Frank J. Mullins, Captain John E. Tolan, Private Thomas G. O’Connor, Lieutenant William E. Nugent, Jr., and Captain John F. Rafferty.
The building that houses the museum was used as a firehouse from 1837 until 1966, known as the Engine 4 station. The upstairs also originally served as an elementary school. During election time, it also served as a polling center (see photo).
The museum also has a McCann fire truck. In 1872, Daniel E. McCann, a son of Irish immigrants, began a blacksmith and carriage making business, which he continued until his death in 1907. His sons carried on the business; they specialized in horse-drawn and man-pulled fire apparatus. In 1912 they began building motorized fire trucks. At this time, there were only seven manufacturers in the country that built motorized fire apparatus, and D. E. McCann & Sons were the only one in Maine.