Singapore’s Civil Defence Heritage Gallery is a lot more fun than the name suggests, with antique fire engines and the opportunity to stick your arm into a hazmat (hazardous material) suit. It’s the perfect place to take aspiring firefighters and admission is free.
The Civil Defence Heritage Gallery is located in the Central Fire Station, the oldest surviving fire station in Singapore. The gallery features an interesting mix of old and new, with the first level commemorating the history of firefighting in Singapore and the second level showcasing the technology used by the city-state’s Civil Defence Force.
Entering the gallery, the first thing you see area series of antique fire engines. These were the first motorized fire engines to be used in Singapore, which was a colony at the time, and were imported from Britain. While you used to be able to climb inside the cab of the fire engine that is unfortunately no longer allowed, but you can still watch black-and-white videos of firefighters in colonial Singapore. There are some other collectibles on display, including old uniforms and hand-held water pumps, and stories about the tragic Bukit Ho Swee fire that destroyed over 2,000 homes in 1961, long before Singapore was built from concrete and glass.
The second level of the gallery is all about current technology designed to keep Singapore safe from fires and other disasters. Displays include dioramas showing how powerful machines can rescue people from collapsed subway tunnels or malfunctioning elevators. Some of the exhibits resemble video games, such as a disaster simulation where you put your arm in a hazmat suit and have just a few seconds to turn a valve or where you use a fire hose to put out a burning car on a TV screen. Kids will enjoy these.
On Tuesday and Friday nights, between 7 and 8pm visitors are allowed to climb to the top of the station’s 30-metre tower that Singapore’s firemen used as an observation point in the early 1900s. This is also free, but requires advance registration online.
Admission to the Civil Defence Heritage Gallery is completely free; you will simply be asked to sign the registration book with your name and nationality. A small gift shop sells unique souvenirs like Singapore Fire Department T-shirts and badges.
The Civil Defence Heritage Gallery is just a five-minute walk from City Hall SMRT station and just around the corner from the Peranakan Museum which is also well worth a visit.
By Tanya Procyshyn
Last updated on 1st May, 2015.