The Elk River Fire Department rolled out the welcome mat during its Sept. 7 open house, an event that brought hundreds of local residents to Station 2 for a day of learning and fun.
Kids and adults alike were treated to close encounters with fire trucks and equipment, including the opportunity to ride along on one of the city’s trucks and to handle fire hoses and blast water at a wooden “house.”
Inside the fire station bay, guests munched on hot dogs and chips while visiting tables that offered child fingerprinting and blank maps to draw up home escape routes and meeting points. Station tours were also available, with several pint-sized firefighters sporting their very own firefighter hats as they explored the building. A group of firefighters also participated in a car extraction demonstration for a group of captivated onlookers.
The throngs of excited kids and parents brought a smile to Fire Prevention Specialist Jeff Smith’s face. As a longtime veteran of the department, he sees the open house as an opportunity to engage with the public on the importance of fire safety while providing information on all the ways the fire department serves the community.
“We get to show the people the things that their tax dollars are going to, and what we can do,” Smith said. “And we can show them all of this without having to be with them at their worst time.”
George Glaras traveled from Chaska to attend the event and happily watched as 3-year-old Braxton handled a water hose with the help of one of the firefighters.
“Every kid loves firefighters,” he said. He has friends who serve with ERFD and cited this as one of the main reasons for attending. “We really wanted to come up and support them.”
Olivia Herrboldt, of Elk River, was thrilled to visit the open house with her children, Audrey, 4, and Landon, 2.
“It’s awesome,” she said of the event. “It’s really fun to be out in the community.”
The Elk River Fire Auxiliary was also at the open house, selling ERFD mugs and T-shirts to raise funds and talking with people about the newly formed organization. According to Michelle Collins, a wife and mother to two firefighters, the group was established to provide support to firefighters, their families and the Elk River community.
“Whether it’s providing food during long fires or welcoming a new baby or helping out if someone gets hurt, we want to be there to support them,” Collins said. They also plan to partner with other agencies to assist families displaced by fires or other disasters.
Most importantly, they see their group as another way the extended ERFD family can reach out to the greater community.
For Smith, that is exactly the message the department wanted to send during its open house.
“It’s fun to have all of the people come out here,” he said. “And it’s great to see the community come together.”