The first Wednesday of August is a big day for local first responders, as that's the day the Watch Hill Fire Department holds its annual Fire Prevention and Fire Safety Night.
The annual event, where residents can stop by and interact with their community’s first responders, offers opportunities to learn about fire safety, the Coast Guard station at Point Judith and its mission, and even what it is like to be an explosive operations technician.
“It’s all about fire prevention, community education and giving back to the community,” assistant chief Chris Koretski said. “The taxpayers fund the fire department, so we want to show them the apparatus, we want to welcome them in, have dinner, and give them some items to promote the fire department and fire safety throughout the year.”
The open house, held on Aug. 3 from 6 to 8 p.m., offered an array of interesting first responders vehicles that visitors — especially children — could jump in to feel what it is like to be behind the wheel. The crowd favorites Wednesday were the Watch Hill Fire Department's older trucks, the first motorized fire truck bought by the town of Westerly in 1917 and another 1953 model nicknamed “Seagrave.”
Tickets were handed out to visitors who wanted ice cream. All sorts of foods and toys were doled out, hamburgers and hot dogs galore, as well as frisbees and little plastic fire helmets for the kids.
Many of the first responders on hand brought their own work-related pieces to show. Officers from the Westerly Police Department demonstrated the K9 unit's attack-training process, featuring Demon the German shepherd. This was followed by a display of a flammable substances, a demonstration of odor-detection procedures by fire investigator Hannah Burnes of the State Fire Marshal’s Office, and Dream the arson dog.
Throughout the evening, Deputy State Fire Marshal Bruce Quinn demonstrated a bomb disposal robot and had various bomb models to exhibit for informational purposes. Guests loved putting on the cumbersome bomb blast protective suit, which is cabable of protecting officers for up to five pounds of C4 explosives.
“We try to change it up a little every year,” said Watch Hill Fire Chief Dennis Reall.
The demonstrations and the exhibits were a hit with visitors.
“I love it. There are a lot of activities here for the kids,” said Alaa, a local mother and event attendee who declined to give her last name. “I asked a lot of questions, and they answered everything.”
When her daughter, Talia, was asked what her favorite moment of the night was, she was enthusiastic about Demon the police dog, among other things, such as “eating ice cream.”
Logan Simmons, son of Watch Hill Fire Deputy Chief Jason Simmons, agreed that his eight years of attending this event have been enlightening, and he enjoyed learning about stop, drop and roll and meeting Sparky the Fire Dog.
Although the event included a heavy dose of fun, the more important component was educational, Simmons said.
“It’s an opportunity for people to acknowledge the first responders and to know what they do for their community,” Simmons said.
As one of the informational banners hanging at the station said, "Real heroes don't wear capes."