When it comes to celebrating partnerships between the community, law enforcement and firefighters, National Night Out Against Crime (NNO) stands out like no other event.-á
The NNO tradition began in the mid-1980s as a method of promoting crime prevention and fostering partnerships between the community and law enforcement. The event boasts participation in more than 16,000 communities across the country and is held each year on the first Tuesday in August. This year's Sky Valley NNO events took place Aug. 2 in Monroe, Sultan and Gold Bar, with each city offering something special that made the event uniquely its own.-á
Held at Monroe's Lake Tye Park, Monroe's NNO event is one of the largest in Snohomish County and possibly the state. The celebration kicked off with a few words from Mayor Geoffrey Thomas and the National Anthem performed by Lauren Marks, co-owner of Monroe's Quality Family Dentistry.-á -á
"As a community tonight we stand together. We stand together for courage to model positive behavior and speech, we stand together for helping others and supporting our community, we stand for optimism, understanding, compassion,GÇ¥ Thomas said. "We stand for peace, love; we stand for unity.GÇ¥
Thomas thanked the Monroe Rotary Club for its efforts in coordinating the event, along with the Monroe Parks Department, participating local businesses and nonprofits and especially Monroe's police officers and firefighters.
"Let's also thank those who serve and protect us. When we are at work, when our children are at school, when our families are asleep; our firefighters and police officers are there to protect us, and they risk their lives to do just that,GÇ¥ Thomas said. "May we never take our police and firefighters for granted.GÇ¥
Monroe's event was emceed by Jerry "Big DogGÇ¥ Dixon and included participation by more than 75 different organizations that set up booths at the event. Free pizza was provided by Sahara Pizza Monroe, along with free hotdogs, popcorn, sno-cones, cookies and water.
"This sweet little town of Monroe is just about the best place on earth,GÇ¥ said event coordinator Sally Petty on social media. "Thanks to everyone for another great NNO!GÇ¥
Gold Bar's event started out with the traditional NNO parade, which travels down Lewis Avenue from the Gold Bar Family Grocer to Gold Bar Elementary School. The parade was led by Sgt. First Class Dave Sivewright, known throughout the Sky Valley as the Highway 2 Freedom Runner. Snohomish County Fire District 26, the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office, the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and the Burlington Northern Santa Fey (BNSF) Railway Police all had presence in the parade.
Gold Bar office manager and utility clerk Denise Beaston served free hotdogs to attendees, while guests were able to mingle with the different agencies involved. WDFW Officer Nicholas Jorg brought his K9 partner, Colter, a 7-year-old Karelian Bear Dog who is part of the WDFW's bear dog program. Bred to be bear-aggressive and people-friendly, Karelian Bear Dogs are used to help resolve conflicts between humans and bears in a safe and non-lethal manner. They are also used to track evidence in investigations involving illegal poaching.
BNSF Railway police officer Tyler Nies showed off his K9 partner, Agent, a 5-year-old German shepherd. Similar to police K9 patrol and drug detection dogs, Agent came from Germany, where he received his initial obedience training. He arrived in the United States when he was three, and is dually trained in patrol and explosives detection.
He and Nies have worked together for about 18 months, Nies said.
"All his commands are in German,GÇ¥ he said. "I knew taking it in high school would pay off eventually.GÇ¥
BNSF officers travel extensively, said Nies. He and Agent spend roughly 20 weeks a year traveling wherever they are needed. Agent is trained specifically in what is referred to as a passive response, which means that once he detects the explosives, he lays down. This differs from the scratch response sometimes employed by drug detection dogs, and is meant to keep the dog and his officer safe.
"They're supposed to be as passive as possible when they're searching,GÇ¥ Nies said.
Agent's reward is his ball, he said. The chipper dog eagerly demonstrated how much he is motivated by the simple toy during an explosives detection demonstration.
"His reward is just the ball,GÇ¥ Nies said. "You can tell he loves his ball ' he doesn't want to get rid of it.GÇ¥
Nies and Agent spend a minimum of 16 hours a month engaged in structured training to keep all of Agent's skills current. The dog is certified twice a year for explosives detection and patrol.
BNSF police officers undergo extensive training upon joining the BNSF police force, and are referred to as special agents. Tasked with protecting railway passengers and property, railway police positions are lateral hires, reserved for candidates with at least 18 months experience as a police officer.-á A federal statute provides special agents with the authority to work in other states, since they are often required to cross state boundaries to assist in cases.
Originally from Marysville, Nies has been a special agent with the railway for just more than four years.
In its second year, Sultan's NNO event was coordinated by the Sultan Community Alliance with support from the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office, Snohomish County Fire District 5, the Volunteers of America (VOA) Sky Valley Services Center and the city of Sultan. The community celebration featured free barbecue from locally owned and operated 2-1/2 Men BBQ, a bicycle giveaway and a community photo taken with a drone operated by Sultan School District tech guru Dave Moon.
Still making its way back home from Gold Bar where it was featured during Gold Dust Days, Monroe Fire District 3's safety trailer was set up at the event, giving kids the opportunity to learn how to mitigate fire hazards in the home. Snohomish County Fire District 5 firefighter Jeff Williams spent time giving interactive lessons inside the mobile trailer, which is set up to mimic the inside of a house and features a mock kitchen, living room and bedroom.
The safety trailer produces "smoke,GÇ¥ so kids can learn how to tuck a towel at the bottom of a doorway to prevent it from entering a room. They were then allowed to "escapeGÇ¥ through a bedroom window, with assistance from District 5 firefighter Steve Tonkin.-á
Sultan residents Gerry and Bonnie Gibson and Rich and Nancy Bender had a booth at the event to sign people up to receive free smoke detectors. The Gibson's nonprofit, the Gibby and Nino Home Fire Prevention Campaign, was founded earlier this year after the Gibsons lost their son, Greg, in a Shoreline house fire. The home had no working smoke detectors, and Greg and his dog Nino were killed due to smoke inhalation.
They signed up 18 different people for free smoke detectors, said Gerry, whose goal for the nonprofit is to save at least one life.