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Sønderho Brandmuseum

Sønderho Fire Museum

The Fire Museum was originally established by the artist Jørgen von Hahn and was acquired by the Gamle Sønderho Foundation in 2003 with financial support from Købstædernes Forsikring.

The fire engine from 1895 originates from Schackenborg and is of the same type as Sønderho's original fire engine from 1868.


The Fire Station was previously owned by the Municipality of Fanø, which generously made the building available to the Gamle Sønderho Foundation. In 2011, the Foundation took over the building.


The Fire Station is one of Denmark's oldest and best-preserved of its kind. Inside the building, which has housed the old fire engine since 1868, Jørgen von Hahn collected artifacts, records, and more over the years, providing a vivid impression of the firefighting practices of that time.

Download Brandfaren i Sønderho (Source: Torben Garmer Mit Fanø).

Another fire museum:

Sønderho Brandmuseum Fanø

Until 1868, there was no common firefighting equipment in Sønderho other than fire hooks, ladders, and leather buckets, which were strategically hung in the town and had been since 1805. One set was hung in the West Town (Vester Land) in Nørbyen, formerly known as Naar Land, now Nord Land, one near the church, and one near the school.


In connection with obtaining fire insurance, the owner committed to having "arranged fire-fighting tools" in each individual building, as they were referred to in fire assessments. These tools, including fire hooks, ladders, and leather buckets, were inspected by the assessors who evaluated the house to ensure that the owner took out fire insurance.

The most important tool was the fire hook, which was used to pull down burning thatched roofs from the roof structure, preventing the fire from spreading to the timber or neighboring houses.

Det gamle sprøjtehus Sønderho Fanø

The museum represents an important part of the development in emergency preparedness and firefighting, not only on Fanø but in Denmark, and therefore it is worth preserving the collection for future generations.


The old firehouse is a three-bay, masonry building centrally located in relation to the original settlement in Sønderho. The building has full wooden gables with a hatch. In the gable, there is a double-leafed gate. The building has a thatched roof.

Even though Sønderho now has an efficient and modern fire department, it is still important to preserve the Fire Museum as part of the overall character of the town and as a reminder of the fire hazard in Sønderho.

Sønderho Brandmuseum Fanø

In Sønderho, the houses are closely situated, considering that the majority of them have thatched roofs. In the event of a fire, the flames can easily spread. The burning, flying straw has a short distance to the neighboring thatched roofs.


Naturally, caution has been paramount! The habits from the sailing ships regarding careful handling of fire were transferred from the sea to the houses by sailors. In 1743, regulations were already in place concerning the carrying of lit pipes in public: These lit pipes were required to have covers.


Within the houses, there were reminders of the danger of fire. On a fireplace beam, for example, one could read:

"Kindle the fire in Jesus' name,

And pray that the fire only brings benefit;

May God, in His grace, prevent the fire from taking control!"


From the era of sailing ships, there was a tradition of each family keeping old sails in the attic. These sails could be wetted and placed on the thatched roof in case of a nearby fire on a property. In this way, the residents of Sønderho were able to partially prevent their houses from burning down. That is why the town remains well-preserved to this day.


Exner fire in Sønderho 1900

Sønderho acquired its first fire engine in 1868, and it can be assumed that the parish also purchased the existing building (no. 186) at the same time. It was a rural fire engine manufactured by Knudsens Fabrik in Odense. The price was 175 rigsdaler. Later, a canvas hose measuring 12 alen was added, and the price for it was 1 rigsdaler per alen. In 1868, a fire ordinance was established for Sønderho.


The fire brigade included: command, rescue and demolition, the fire engine, and water supply. It was clearly defined who was responsible for the various areas.


The fire preparedness in 1805 included a fire and night watch system. There was a detailed regulation regarding the timing, staffing, procedures, equipment, and penalties for negligence.

Julius Exner: Fire in Sønderho on 5 July 1900

Three fire guards patrolled the streets and paths of Sønderho between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. A shift lasted 4 hours. The staffing meant that each house could be monitored at least once per hour.

Baking bread was prohibited at night.


Thus, the residents of Sønderho guarded their thatched houses until 1890 when the authorities employed a night watchman.


The fire chief had the authority to command people to assist in firefighting if necessary.

There was deep respect for thunderstorms. According to the regulations, firefighters had to gather at the fire engine after the third thunderclap and stay there until the storm had passed.

Women assisted in firefighting by carrying water from a well or the sea to the fire engine. The young people formed a line and passed the filled buckets from hand to hand to the fire engine. The elderly returned the empty buckets.


The painter Julius Exner brought the drama to life in the painting "Ildebrand i Sønderho den 5. juli 1900" (Fire in Sønderho on July 5, 1900). The original fire engine from 1868 is depicted in the painting. The artwork is displayed at the Fanø Art Museum in Sønderho.


Fire safety considerations influenced the design of the houses. The hatch to the attic on the south side of the house, called "arkengaf," was positioned above the entrance door so that a collapsing, burning thatched roof would slide aside in relation to the doorway, allowing the house occupants to exit.



Thorsten Bosse

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