Augusta fire chief, retirees want to convert old station into museum

Augusta-Richmond County Fire Chief Chris James and a band of retired and current firefighters are renewing a push to convert the nearly 100-year-old building that once housed Augusta Engine Company No. 7 into a fire museum and education center.

“There are so many firefighters who have worked there over the years,” retired Deputy Fire Chief Dennis Atkins said of the historic fire station on Central Avenue.

“I’d be willing to serve on the committee; a bunch of retired guys would.”

James and Atkins said the museum would be the perfect home for the large amounts of memorabilia that many current and retired firefighters have collected.

“There are a lot of people who have bits and pieces of our fire history, if they only had a place to put it,” Atkins said.

The building, Augusta’s first station to house motorized fire engines not drawn by horses, currently is home to a vintage engine restored by fire Lt. Joey Smith, who is working on a 1924 engine that Atkins said has particular significance to Augusta’s fire history. The building has been used mainly for storage and occasional firefighter training since Engine Company No. 7 moved to new digs in late 2003.

James said the project would bolster a sense of pride among Augusta and former Richmond County firefighters.

“It’s a project that could bring our firefighters together,” he said.

Renovating the 6,500-square-foot building probably faces an uphill battle.

“It’s a wonderful thing to think about, but the reality of being able to operate it, to maintain it on city dollars doesn’t really seem realistic in my mind, but I haven’t had that conversation yet,” City Administrator Fred Russell said.

Russell said he imagined its possible private use as a restaurant or bed-and-breakfast.

“I think it would be a hell of a nice restaurant, or something,” he said.

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