Michel Muzzey, 41, has been involved in firefighting in one way or another for 24 years. His passion for the job has become so strong, he had to share it with other people. That’s why he decided to open his firefighter’s museum, La Galerie du Pompier du Nord. A number of items from Eeyou Istchee are on display at the museum, which doubles as Muzzey’s home.
Muzzey always wanted to be a firefighter; this is something he’s known since he was five years old. He finally got the opportunity at age 13 to experience a real fire – he jumped on the back bumper of the fire truck without anyone noticing! Once the firefighters realized they couldn’t keep him away, they started to use him as an unpaid gopher.
When he was 14, he still wasn’t legally allowed to work as a fireman because of his age, but the fire department classified him as a “mascot,” and he was able to receive a paycheck. As he got older, Michel learned enough to become a full-fledged fireman himself and joined the armed forces as a firefighter. He left after 10 years to return home.
His passion for fighting blazes was fueled even more by having the local fire truck right in his own garage. The town of Ste-Anne-des-lacs had no space for it. Since his father was the fire chief with an extra parking space in his garage, he volunteered to keep it at his home.
Situated on a cul de sac, the museum is a firefighter’s dream. With over 10,500 different items on display, Muzzey has contacted the Guinness Book of World Records in hopes of being included as the man with the largest collection of firefighting paraphernalia.
He started collecting the many different items around 1995 while he was training young firefighters. That’s when he got the idea to open a museum and the rest is history.
The items on display range from kids’ toys to full firefighter regalia, magazines, videos, and patches, T-shirts, hats and figurines. The most impressive item was a 300-pound water cannon, which was purchased from the Montreal Fire Department for $100.
Muzzey also has a number of items from the Cree communities he has worked in. He was happy to visit Eeyou Istchee because he found that the people were the most generous when it came to adding to his collection. He has T-shirts, mugs, patches, license plates, flags, posters and other assorted memorabilia from all nine communities.
“The Cree were amazing, always giving and never asking for money for the items,” Muzzey said. “I loved it when I was up there.”
He also had a short stint with the Whapmagoostui’s fire department as interim chief. In that time, the firefighters under his command saved a burning Hydro Quebec building on the Inuit side of the community and he received a letter of thanks from Hydro Quebec.
He has trained around 500 First Nations peoples to be firefighters. This includes Cree, Algonquin, Montaignais, Micmac and Abenaki men and women. He hopes to one day create a wing solely for the display of First Nations firefighting items.
Visitors are asked for a $5 donation, one dollar of which goes toward an organization that helps flood victims in the Laurentians. The rest goes towards maintaining the facility and paying for electricity. This venture was not set up as a moneymaking one; it was created to fuel interest in firefighting and to pass on one man’s passion to the world.
Those interested in visiting the museum should call ahead and make an appointment. La Galerie du Pompier du Nord is located at 35, Bruno-Nantel in St-Jerome, Quebec. Michel Muzzey can be reached at 450-602-1706.