Safety, fun at Fire Department

Earl Richardson, of Fort Dodge, offered ample proof Saturday morning that the open house hosted by the Fort Dodge Fire Department wasn’t just for children.

It was for the young of heart too.

Richardson, who happily wore one of the small plastic fire chief helmets that his nieces and nephews also put on, enjoyed it.

“I loved the fire trucks,” he said. “I didn’t realize they had that much equipment on them.”

Caden Konecne, 8, of Fort Dodge, attended the open house with his mom, Jennifer Konecne.

“My little one loves the fire trucks,” she said.

Caden Konecne got to try on some of heavy bunker gear the firefighters wear. He didn’t realize the boots connect to the pants. He also learned a bit about the mass of their main weapon.

“I didn’t know how heavy a hose is,” he said.

In spite of getting to try on the gear and being able to see all the trucks and equipment, he was still set in the same career path he’d selected before the visit.

“I’m going to be a pro football player,” he said.

Firefighter Devan Schipper was the one whose boots, coat and bunker pants were being tried on by the young visitors. The day was bringing a big grin to his face.

“I love teaching kids about this stuff,” he said.

Fellow firefighter Andy Midtling was showing visitors the department’s ambulance. While most were curious about the many items and medical devices carried on board, a training dummy strapped to the gurney was also drawing a lot of attention.

“They want to know why he’s there and why he’s so banged up,” he said.

The Region V HazMat truck was among the various pieces of equipment on display. Many of the younger visitors were enchanted by large bright green inflated HazMat suit.

Emma Barwin, 7, of Fort Dodge, even tried giving it a hug.

Her mom, Amber Barwin, had an enjoyable moment as she toured the station.

“She asked me can a girl be a firefighter,” she said. “That was neat.”

The answer, of course, is yes.

Kyle Davis, 11, of Fort Dodge, was another visitor who got to try on the turnout gear.

“It’s heavy,” he said.

While he said he didn’t want to wear it at work, he did think that a set of turnout gear might be an interesting choice for a Halloween costume.

“Depends on how far you go,” he said.

He warmed up to the idea a little more when he discovered that the large pockets in both the pants and jacket could probably hold a lot of candy.

Fort Dodge Fire Department Chief Kent Hulett said an open house is an excellent chance for the department to get a strong fire safety message out to their visitors.

The event is part of the department’s recognition of Fire Prevention Week. This year’s emphasis is on preventing kitchen fires.

Hulett said he is proud of his department and the members who serve in it. He said many people don’t realize the crews work in 24- hour shifts which means they eat, sleep and shower at the station.

It’s not just a fire station, it’s also their home.

“People take pride in their homes,” he said. “We like to show it off.”