Volunteer firefighters rejoiced, some choking back tears, at a groundbreaking ceremony Saturday for the Islip Firefighters Museum and Education Center — a project 26 years in the making.

Organizers spent those years raising more than $500,000 in donations to build the one-story, 4,500-square-foot museum in Central Islip.

“This is a day we’ve been waiting for, and we’re so happy,” said Rick Gimbl, a member of the museum’s executive board and past chief of the Holbrook Fire Department. “This is a long time coming. . . . We are so excited about this.”

Local firefighters and Islip Town officials gathered Saturday morning at the 1-acre site on Court House Drive, between the Cohalan Court Complex and Bethpage Ballpark, home of the Long Island Ducks.

At the groundbreaking, members of the Greenport-based John C. Dunphy Private Foundation presented a check for $100,000, boosting the total to $600,000.

Some fire departments in the area have been operating for 125 years, Gimbl said. Historical items, such as tools from the early 1900s, antique fire trucks and hand-drawn carts will be on display at the museum, which will be free to the public.

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Ground clearing at the site began two weeks ago. Foundation work is to start in the coming weeks, with construction expected to finish by the end of summer, Gimbl said. Officials hope to open the museum in fall.

Edward Tully, president of the museum board, became emotional as he spoke of the time and effort that went into this project.

“I never thought I’d see this in my lifetime,” he said.