Held every year in October, Monroe Fire District No. 3's open house is a free, family friendly event with a larger purpose: to promote fire prevention and safety, using interactive techniques engaging for kids and adults.-á -á
This year's open house takes place 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10, at the Monroe Fire Department, 163 Village Court. The event includes tours of the fire station, educational presentations, the opportunity to meet firefighters, informative displays, interactive games, activities for kids, fire engine rides, fire extinguisher lessons, fire hose demonstrations and special appearances by Sparky the Fire Dog and Pluggie the Fireplug.
The open house event coincides with National Fire Prevention Week, which commemorates the Great Chicago Fire. The devastating blaze started on Oct. 8, 1871, and burned through Oct. 9, killing more than 250 people and destroying thousands of buildings.
Fire Prevention Week is observed annually, during the Sunday-through-Saturday period in which Oct. 9 falls. This year's running theme is "hear the beep where you sleep,GÇ¥ a slogan developed by the National Fire Protection Association to signify the importance of having a working smoke detector in every bedroom.
The open house will offer free refreshments, including free water donated by the Monroe Grocery Outlet, and a free slice of pizza from Sahara Pizza. Each year, Sahara donates enough pizzas to accommodate hundreds of guests.
The open house is coordinated by District 3 administrative assistant Elsa Sexton and firefighter paramedic Kurt Schneider as a way to showcase the department and promote fire safety. Over the years, the Monroe Fire Department has invested in numerous educational tools designed to teach fire prevention and safety, all of which will be on display during the open house.
Families will be able to tour the inside of the firehouse for a true, behind-the-scenes look at how the department operates. As guests tour the station and meet with firefighters, they will have the opportunity to interact with multiple preventative tools including Pluggie the Fireplug, the Hazard House and the department's full-size safety trailer.
Pluggie the Fireplug is a crowd favorite. The bright red 3-foot-tall robot zips around on two wheels, cheerfully interacting with everybody it meets. The department has found Pluggie to be an effective educational tool because kids are more inclined to listen as the robot imparts critical safety information.-á Pluggie moves and interacts via remote control, which enables its operator to remain out of sight.
"The kids just love him,GÇ¥ Schneider said.
Fire drills will be held using the department's safety trailer, which features a mock kitchen and bedroom area for an added sense of realism. During the drill, guests will be given the opportunity to "escapeGÇ¥ through the safety trailer's window, a learn-by-doing tactic that teaches the proper way to navigate a burning structure. Guests are taught to test for heat by feeling the bedroom door with the back of their hand, just as they would in an actual fire situation.
Outside, there will be opportunities for kids to operate a fire hose, and teens and adults can to learn to operate a fire extinguisher.
"We have a station set up where we have a pretend fire going, and then we allow people to use fire extinguishers to extinguish the fire,GÇ¥ Schneider said.
Another key piece of educational equipment is the department's Hazard House, a scaled-down replica of a four-story family home. The interactive teaching tool focuses on corrective strategies to decrease fire risks in the home, and is used by Monroe firefighters every year during presentations in local schools. The mobile, dollhouse-type structure can be used to demonstrate the way smoke rises, the best way to escape a burning structure and the importance of having smoke detectors in every room.
It highlights the tiniest details, even demonstrating how to use a towel to decrease the amount of smoke entering a room from underneath a door. The Hazard House will be set up during the open house, and presentations will be given throughout the day.
The apparatus bay will also feature several static displays, including an ambulance display and the department's 1936 Pirsch fire engine. Outside, kids can line up for the opportunity to ride around the block on a fire truck, which is one of the most popular attractions of the open house.
There will be an area for bicycle helmet fittings, with helmets available for sale. Families can also sign up to participate in the department's address sign program, which involves highly reflective home address signs that can be purchased at cost.-á
This year's event includes information about wildland firefighting, featuring Monroe's own wildland-certified firefighters. In order to be eligible to fight wildfires, a firefighter must hold an Incident Qualification Card, also known as a Red Card. Firefighters at the wildland booth will share stories about their experiences with this year's wildfires in Eastern Washington, and will present wildfire preparedness information.
The goal of the open house is to welcome the community while providing information about fire prevention and safety that could potentially save lives.
"We hope everybody comes and has a good time,GÇ¥ Schneider said.Photo courtesy of Fire Capt. Cindy Coker Pluggie the Fireplug will be back for this yearGÇÖs Monroe Fire District No. 3 open house to educate children.