Chicago: 10 Things to Do

6. Robert J. Quinn Fire Academy

green line chicago tranist authority Leah Pietrusiak
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Walk into this firefighter training academy — past one of Chicago's original steam-powered engines in the lobby — and you can see a plaque that marks where the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 began. And you may also smell smoke: As part of cadets' training, instructors build live fires. You can often overhear firefighters banter, while you're looking at the monument to the volunteers who have fallen in the line of duty (paid for by Ron Howard after the filming of Backdraft), as well as photos and historical info on landmark fires and inventions. For example, the Iroquois Theater Fire of 1903 was so brutal that it prompted the city to revamp its building code, thus requiring doors to swing outward. And did you know that the sliding pole was invented in Chicago in 1878? (The original was made of wood.)

Academy candidates are allowed to walk through this hallway once when they first start training, and not again until they graduate. It's an issue of respect, so feel honored during your visit. Call ahead if you'd like a guided tour.

The Fire Museum of Greater Chicago (773-863-1405), which is scheduled to open in its new South Side location at 2311 West 57th Street in the spring of 2009, will feature a separate collection.

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