Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Hug a firefighter

Annual expo is hot time for all ages

Express Staff Writer

Wide-eyed children get a hands-on opportunity at this Saturday’s Fire Expo at Festival Meadows on Sun Valley Road.
Courtesy photo

    People passing by Festival Meadow on Sun Valley Road on
Saturday might think they have fallen into Munchkinland when they see smoke and fire and small people in uniform wielding giant hoses in battle.
    No cause for alarm, everything is under control. It’s the annual Blaine County Fire Expo, managed by the professionals that protect the valley’s property and people.
    This annual community event—especially thrilling for kids—has been held since 2003 and features local firefighters and paramedics sharing their expertise with live demonstrations.
    Popular events include car extrication with the “jaws of life,” rescue drills, free barbecue, fire extinguisher demonstrations, fire safety for kids and family health information.
    Representatives from the Forest Service, BLM and local alarm companies are also scheduled to attend.
    A new addition this year will be firefighter skill demonstrations that will show firefighters performing a typical response at full speed, including forcible entry through a door, extinguishing a fire, cutting through a roof and rescuing a downed firefighter.
    Fire engines, ambulances, backcountry rescue equipment, auto extrication equipment, swift water and ice rescue equipment, and the new Sun Valley ladder truck will all be on display along with equipment from other fire departments in Blaine County.
    Information will be available on a variety of topics, including advanced emergency life support techniques, protecting your home from wildland fire and smoke detectors.  
    It all starts at 11 a.m. on June 21, in the meadow adjacent to Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church in Sun Valley.
    Ketchum Fire Lt. Lara McLean said the expo is designed to flow from event to event from the start, so she advises arriving on time so as not to miss any opportunity. It ends with a game of water ball, so unfussy wardrobes are encouraged.
    Kids will be invited to suit up to use hoses and extinguishers, meet and greet firefighters and learn important lifesaving tips in the event of fire.
    As a result of years past, “tons of kids know how to stop, drop and roll,” McLean said. “And to use fire extinguishers, which can be intimidating. In the end, the kid knows not to hide from us if the house is full of smoke. We teach them to pound on the ground to help us locate them. Basically, we teach that firefighters are not scary in a scary situation, and how they can help themselves.”
    McLean said it was her childhood in New York that spurred her commitment to presenting an expo here. Every summer, the local firehouse hosted a block party, at which kids played games and were served a barbecue, and opened up the hydrants.
    “Which is just about the best thing you can do for kids in the summer in the city,” she said.
    She said people are often surprised to find out all of the things firefighters do beyond fire, like swift-water and backcountry rescue.    
    “It’s a pretty thrilling day and we leave exhausted. It’s a great day for the family,” she said.
    Lessons are taught in Spanish and English and all ages are encouraged to attend the free event.
    And, just so people know in advance, McLean said, “Firefighters love hugs.”

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