Slovenia has a proud tradition of both volunteer and professional firefighters’ organizations. Thanks to the commitment of one man, a small museum chronicles that firefighting heritage.
Branko Božič, who was born in 1927, was a historian and eventually became the dean of the Teachers’ College in Ljubljana. But he was also a passionate firefighter and became aware of the need to preserve various objects and documents connected to firefighting in the Slovenian Lands before they were lost forever.
In 1969, Božič helped to set up a new firefighting museum in the southern Slovenian town of Metlika. Neither the date nor the location was a coincidence: Exactly a hundred years earlier, Slovenia’s first modern fire brigade was established in the small Bela Krajina community.
These days, the museum houses a gallery, various invaluable documents chronicling Slovenia’s firefighting legacy, uniforms from different periods, helmets, firefighters’ axes, plaques, and – a highlight for visitors of all ages – old fire engines. One of the pumps dates back to 1836, several decades before the first official fire departments were established in the Slovenian Lands.
Some of the most important artifacts date back to the period before World War I. Among the other items preserved by the museum are various publications, from books to pamphlets, that chronicle the growth and development of fire departments across the Slovenian Lands. Some 15,000 volumes are held by the museum, including rare copies of the firefighters’ newsletter Gasilec, which was established in 1897.
The museum was recently named in honor of Branko Božič, its visionary founder, who died in 2001.