Tulsa Fire Museum honors history of Black firefighters with living exhibit

TULSA, Okla. — The Tulsa Fire Museum hosted its annual Black History Month living exhibit Monday. The museum is dedicated to sharing the history of firefighters in Tulsa and promoting fire education.

This exhibit featured Assistant Fire Marshal Captain Lorenzer Holmes and Lieutenant Victor Grimes about what inspired them to be firefighters and the great men that mentored them.

Holmes has been with the Tulsa Fire Department (TFD) for 27 years, and Grimes for 22 years. The two grew up together around firefighters.

“We had a neighborhood fire station where I grew up, and I got to meet some of the firefighters there and they kind of took me and Captain Lorenzer Holmes in,” said Grimes. “I had what was called about 600 uncles at the time. I didn’t have a dad at home and so I had a lot of mentors at the fire department.”

Grimes said the best piece of advice he ever received came from one of his mentors, the late Chief Harold McCoy.

“Go above and beyond,” said Grimes. “He told me, when I got my first job in fact, no matter what you do, do a little bit more.”

Holmes said he was born to be a firefighter, and his father was a firefighter, too.

“I’m second generation. My father was a firefighter for 20 years, from 1964 to 1984,” said Holmes. “He was a person that was very humble. He always had a very good attitude about life and himself.”

Grimes said growing up around the fire department shaped all parts of his life. Behind him, at the exhibition, stood a case dedicated to six Black firefighters that were hired by TFD in 1956. Grimes said they try to recruit more minorities by sharing the history of the fire department.

“Black history month is a time to share their history, and what their story was,” said Grimes. He emphasized the importance of having Black and minority firefighters in the community.

“We serve a diverse population of people all over the city. It’s important for people to see people who look like them, to be able to serve them,” said Grimes. “I got a chance to work in the neighborhood where I grew up, so it was really important to me for the kids in my neighborhood to see someone who looks like them get off the firetruck and be their help.”

“When I came on the job there wasn’t very many of us in higher ranking. Now we have several chiefs that are Black, I think there’s six or seven captains and several lieutenants,” said Holmes. “We’ve come a long way. We still have a long way to go.”

Both firefighters attributed their time spent as kids around firefighters to the distinguished careers they have today, and said it’s important for children to know they can achieve anything they set their minds to.

“This has always been my dream to be a firefighter,” said Holmes. “I always want people to know whatever you dream it can be possible.”

“I mainly want the young people to know that you can do anything that you want to do,” said Grimes. “Find something that you do that you love, because I still love coming to work every day. So find something that you do that you love and it’s not like working.”