San Francisco Fire Museum: What to Expect When You Visit the SF Fire Department Museum

Jill on a windy day at the Golden Gate Bridge

by Jill Loeffler  •

A visit to the San Francisco Fire Museum is perfect for those that want to learn more about SF's fire department over the years including the tragic 1906 Earthquake and Fire.

During a visit, you will see one of the first fire trucks purchased for SF, learn more about Lillie Hitchcock Coit (the person that donated money to build Coit Tower) and find dozens of pieces of memorabilia.

This hidden gem is in the city's Pacific Heights neighborhood. The museum houses one of the largest collections of historic fire department memorabilia on the west coast.

This small, yet important SF museum is run by volunteers so is only open a few days a week. It's easy to find as it sits in a room next to one of the city's working fire houses.

The entrance to the San Francisco Fire Department MuseumThe entrance to the exhibit

The space is small, but filled with amazing treasures. The minute you walk in the door, you are greeted by this historic bell.

The large, historic bell at the San Francisco Fire Department Museum

The bell was originally installed in Portsmouth Square in Chinatown. It was used for decades to warn residents in the area of fires. During the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, it fell, cracked and partially melted from the heat.

Luckily a local fire fighter fought to ensure it wasn't swept away with the rest of the trash from the devastation. Today, you can take a close look at it during your visit.

More Highlights of this SF Museum

The walls in this one-room gallery are lined with artifacts, photos and other memorabilia. One of the largest displays is about the 1906 Earthquake and Fire (learn more about this event).

This exhibit includes photos, documentation and melted items from this event. You can also learn more about the two firefighters that died during the fires and see about a dozen postcards designed to show what San Francisco was like after the devastation.

The display case in the back of the picture is where you will find the items on this event.

The 1906 earthquake and fire exhibit at SF's Fire Department Museum

Here is a close up look at a few of the things you can see in this exhibit.

Documents from the 1906 earthquake and fire in SF.

These are pictures and details surrounding the deaths of the two firemen in the 1906 Earthquake.

More documents from the 1906 earthquake and fire in SF.

These are just some of the old books from the event on display.

Another interesting display here is the one on Lillie Hitchcock Coit. She was a San Francisco resident that was saved by and then spent quite a bit of time hanging out with the members of SF Fire Department.

She is also the person that donated the money to build Coit Tower (see pictures of Coit Tower and learn more). Here is the exhibit on this SF legend.

The Lillie Hitchcock display at the SF Fire Museum.

In addition to these items, you will also find several old vehicles in the San Francisco Fire Museum. Here are just a few of my favorites.

This colorful 'fire truck' dates back to 1810. It was one of the first three fire vehicles for the city of San Francisco. It was restored in 1979 to its original colors of blue and yellow.

The first fire truck in SF at the Fire Museum.

This is the other half that was used to haul the long fire hose.

Half of one of the original fire vehicles used in San Francisco

This is another rare vehicle you will see at the San Francisco Fire Museum. It was found on a farm outside of the bay area and is still in its original condition.

An original fire department vehicle found at the SF Fire Department Museum


The San Francisco Fire Department Museum is only open Thursday - Sunday afternoons from 1 pm to 4 pm. Since it's volunteer run, you should call ahead before visiting.

Sometimes they are short volunteers, so they might be closed during these hours.

The museum is free, but you can always leave a little donation if you want to help support their cause.

Call them at (415) 558-3546 to confirm their schedule. They only post it about a month in advance, so it's best to call the day before or the day of your visit.

It is located at 655 Presidio Avenue on the corner of Bush Street and Presidio Avenue in the Pacific Heights district.

A map showing the location of the San Francisco Fire Department

From Union Square:

  • 1-California: Another option is the 1-California. In downtown SF, you will find the stops on Sacramento Street. Take this bus to the California Street and Presidio Avenue stop. This stop is about a block and a half north.

From Fisherman's Wharf:

  • 49-Van Ness/Mission to 1-California: You will want to pick up the 49-Van Ness/Mission bus in Fisherman's Wharf. Take this bus to the Van Ness Street and Sacramento Street stop. This is where you can pick up the 1-California. Take this to the California Street and Presidio Avenue stop, which is about a block and a half north.

Other Attractions You Might Enjoy

Other Museums You Will Enjoy

Exploratorium: This award-winning museum offers your kids (and you!) a chance to play around as you learn about science. They consider themselves a hands-on human perception and science museum. Here you will learn about how the different colors develop, what impacts sounds and how interactions impact emotions. You will also learn about balance, motion and cell creation.

Legion of Honor: This gorgeous attraction sits inside a historic mansion near the Pacific Ocean in SF's Seacliff District. It offers you the chance to see a few hundred pieces of work from around the world. Their collection includes several Rodin statues, one of Monet's beautiful water lily pieces and a unique statue from Pablo Picasso.

Cartoon Art Museum: This is a fun place to visit for those that love comic strips. It's permanent collection features thousands of pieces including everything from Calvin and Hobbs to historic Peanuts works. If you are traveling with children, there is also a small television set that continually runs fun cartoons.

Pinterest Pin for the Fire Museum in San Francisco

Comments? Questions? Suggestions?

I would love for you to join me in my private Facebook group

It's a great place to interact with me and others who know the area well.

You can ask questions, get advice for your upcoming stay, and then share your photos and advice with others when you return home. It's a great community and the fastest way to get answers to those nagging questions about your visit!

Come join the fun here!

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