GHFB Membership

Greater Houston Fire Battalion is open for membership, not just to Houstonians, but to anyone. If you are a fire buff, then you are welcome. Our dues are $20 annually, single or family, but includes attendance for two persons at the annual member service appreciation dinner (held every December).

By mail, GHFB memberships are accepted in check or money order form only. Dues are payable on a calendar year basis, meaning renewals are due by January 31 every year. Your $20 dues check along with your name, mailing address, phone number, and e-mail address should be mailed to:

 
Greater Houston Fire Battalion
Box 697
Bellaire, TX 77402


GHFB Affiliation

Greater Houston Fire Battalion is a member chapter of the International Fire Buff Associates, Inc. (IFBA), a 501-(c)-3 non-profit organization. The Houston organization is currently in Region 5 of the IFBA, along with other clubs from Texas and Louisiana. Region 5 clubs hold an annual meeting usually in the Spring, while the IFBA holds its annual convention usually in the Summer. Check out the IFBA's web site at www.ifba.org. IFBA publishes an on-line journal called Turnout twice a year which includes information from member clubs, including GHFB.


History of Fire Buffing in Houston

Webster's Dictionary lists several definitions for the noun "BUFF," including: a polished leather coat or garment; a neutral orange-yellow color; a polishing cloth (like a chamois); the state of being nude; and last, but not least, "an enthusiast about going to fires, perhaps from the buff overcoats worn by volunteer firefighters in New York City around 1820..." There are also a handful of individuals for whom the last two definitions BOTH apply, but that is for a different discussion and a different web site.

Seriously, though, the word "buff" today is bandied about with just about any noun in front of it (e.g. train buff, food buff, old car buff, etc.). To be the actual "term starters" and have Webster's tell the world it's really that way IS quite an honor. Fire buffs everywhere should be proud!

Believe it or not, fire buffing in Houston officially dates back to at least 1954 when the city hosted the IFBA's second annual convention. None of GHFB's members today remember anyone connected with that event, and, quite frankly, it is a huge curiosity who actually spearheaded that meeting. If anyone knows details or about the planners of that meeting, please e-mail tmcfire @ aol.com with that information.

Greater Houston Fire Battalion (GHFB) was originally named Houston Area Fire Buffs (HAFB). HAFB was founded after a call to hold a meeting to start a new fire buff club made by long-time Houston buff Dave Miller back in 1991. That followed about a decade during which there was no organized fire buff group in Houston (despite the fact that there were numerous buffs around town). There were 13 local buffs at that first HAFB meeting on June 15, 1991, and the first officers chosen were President Charlie Womack, Vice-President Dave Miller, and Secretary-Treasurer Tom McDonald. All three men were career firefighters who just couldn't get enough on the job, evidently. Today, the same offices are held by Jerald Ricks, Mike Pack, and, yes, Tom McDonald, respectively.

In the "Bicentennial" year of 1976, another career firefighter, Houston FD member and avid buff Chuck Buschardt, along with several of his friends, formed an organization called "America '76 Hose Company." The first few meetings of that group were held in the conference room on the third floor of then-HFD Headquarters, 410 Bagby, downtown Houston. Soon, Chuck was given permission by then-fire chief Joe Perino to use former Station No. 7, 2403 Milam Street, just south of downtown, as a club base, but also to renovate the building and turn it into a fire museum. That station, built in 1898, had been one of the busiest in the city for decades, but was closed in 1969 when a replacement station opened at 1402 Elgin, about ten blocks away. In 1977, Houston's city council officially dedicated "Old 7's" for eventual use as a fire museum (which finally did occur in 1982).

Buschardt and "America '76" moved into "Old 7's" with the intent of turning the run-down facility into the city's first fire museum. Fire Chief Perino quartered the HFD's Canteen (or what would be called today, "Rehab") Unit in the building with the buffs. Three club members were "checked out" on driving the vehicle, and probably became the only three non-city employees ever granted permission to drive a city vehicle.

That vehicle was a yellow HFD utility van with a "bubble-gum" rotating red light on top and no siren. Its radio number was, appropriately, "576." It was stocked with coffee, water, sodas, and stale cookies, but was always a welcome site on fire scenes. The three club members authorized to drive the truck were: Bob Buschardt (Chuck's younger brother), David Cole, and Steve Simmons. Eventually, the three men decided to park the vehicle at their homes, rather than at "Old 7's," since they often had to come from west Houston all the way downtown to take the truck back to a big fire in west Houston then return it downtown and then drive home again. All three had non-FD jobs back then that required them getting some sleep at night, so it just made sense (Bob, though, is now an HFD captain).

In 1978, Chuck Buschardt and his "America 76" club were kicked out of "Old 7's" by a new fire chief V. E. Rogers. Rogers claimed that not enough progress was being made by the group to turn the facility into a fire museum. True to form, Buschardt fought back, and a cover story soon appeared across the city in Houston's most popular weekly paper, The Houston Press. It was titled, "The Fire Chief vs. The Fire Buffs" and showed the "America '76" group standing in front of "Old 7's" in a photo that appeared to be torn in two. In the end, the fire chief won (no surprise; after all, it was and still is a city building), and "America '76" had to find new digs. The Houston economy was booming during Rogers' early years as chief, so his budgets were almost unlimited. As such, Chief Rogers assigned an on-duty officer to "Old 7's" to spruce the place up and open it as a museum. In 1982, that project was completed and "Old 7's" officially became The Houston Fire Museum. It is still a popular city attraction today.

"America 76" also is still an active non-profit organization today, operating primarily through its subsidiary, The Lone Star Fire Museum, a facility located near Hobby Airport in southeast Houston. That museum, though not housed in an old firehouse, does boast the largest private fire truck collection in southeast Texas and is open by appointment with Chuck Buschardt.

Four Houston buffs have served as president of the IFBA: John Van Dyke served from 1974 to 1975; Jim Rasmussen served from 1989 to 1990; Charlie Womack served from 2000 to 2001; and Tom McDonald served from 2001 to 2002. Only one other Region 5 buff has served as IFBA president: Harvey Carter of Shreveport from 1978 to 1979.

Today, Greater Houston Fire Battalion has more than 20 members from all across the Houston area including Harris, Galveston, and Montgomery counties. The club meets every other month, usually on the first or second Saturday morning, either at its "main" meeting room at the Community National Bank in Bellaire, Texas or at a newly-opened Houston firehouse or at one of dozens of volunteer fire department stations in the region. Visitors are always welcome, but e-mail Tom McDonald at tmcfire @ aol.com for the correct meeting date, time, and location.