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After hosting Chinese tour, Westminster fire company to hold museum open house

Cameras were everywhere.

Two dozen Chinese students touring the United States were chronicling highlights of their trip. They took hundreds of photos and even a few videos during a visit to the Westminster Fire Company Museum in Westminster Thursday.

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The students, the guests of Church of the Open Door in Westminster, will be in town for the next week. They got a sneak preview of what the general public will be able to see from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday during a free open house at the Westminster Fire Company Museum at 28 John St. in Westminster. Pit beef and pit ham will also be sold for a charge Sunday.

The museum open houses will take place on the third Sunday of every month through October. Visitors will be able to see two hose carts that are more than a century old, a 1933 pumper and a 1924 ladder truck that is still utilized for ceremonial occasions in the city.

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"Actually, if push came to shove, and we needed ladders, that truck is still in reserve," said Joe Ebaugh of the Westminster fire company. "It could be used."

Westminster fire company was organized in 1823 as Union fire company before becoming Westminster Fire Engine & Hose Co. No. 1 in 1879. The two hose carts on display were used in the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904 after an explosion in the Hurst Building caused a blaze that spread throughout the city.

Mutual aid from Washington and Philadelphia was used to battle the fire, according to the Maryland Historical Society. The Westminster hose pieces were sent to Baltimore via train, Ebaugh said.

The Chinese students learned about the Baltimore fire prior to visiting the fire company, said Don Frazier, who is serving as a guide for the Asian visitors during their stay. The Chinese visitors are from Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, and are part of families from their nation's elite who can afford to travel, Frazier said.

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After their stay in Westminster, the students are off to Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles and Disney Land. They are used to city life and were surprised about many aspects of their temporary Carroll homes.

"Everyone in Taneytown has a yard, and they have been walking around saying, 'Wow, everyone here has grass, everyone has flowers,'" Frazier said.

Student Adam Luo said he was surprised to see roads without heavy traffic, something that is rare in his native city. Like most of his peers, he took multiple photographs inside the fire museum before getting a tour of Westminster's current fire and rescue apparatus in the adjoining fire hall.

Ebaugh said he hopes the Carroll community gets as much out of seeing the museum as the Chinese students did.

"We're hoping to get some community interest," he said. "There's a lot to learn here."

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