Brainerd Dispatch/Clint Wood
As it is every year, this year's Brainerd Fire Department open house was a showcase of fire safety for children.
The fire escape house, demonstrations on how to get out of bed and climb through a window during a fire and lessons on dialing 911 -- all perennial standards -- drew good attendance at Thursday's open house, sponsored in conjunction with Fire Prevention Week.
But it was a new feature that drew a long line of children at this year's open house.
"The dunk tank has been really popular," said Deb Doucette, Brainerd fire dispatcher and records clerk, as she retrieved wayward tennis balls thrown at the dunk tank.
"They're having fun over there," said Fred Underhill, acting fire chief and himself a victim in the tank.
Justin Eschenbacher, a 10-year-old Riverside Elementary student, was one of hundreds who lined up to take turns throwing tennis balls in an attempt to dunk firefighters. A baseball player, Eschenbacher missed on his first two throws -- both hard tosses that were just off the mark. His third throw didn't miss and he sent the firefighter into the tank of water below.
Eschenbacher, however, isn't a rookie at the dunk tank. He also threw at the Crow Wing County Fair this summer.
Brainerd Dispatch/Clint Wood
"It was pretty easy to hit," Eschenbacher said of the fire department's dunk tank. "It was a lot farther away at the fair."
Despite cloudy skies and a threat of rain, the open house was again well attended, Underhill said. The main garage was packed with people, as were the outdoor presentations. Kids lined up to shoot fire hoses at a cardboard mockup of a front of a house. It was the kids' goal to get the jet of water into the windows.
The kids also took turns climbing in and out of fire trucks and squad cars from the State Patrol and the Brainerd and Baxter police departments and an ambulance from North Ambulance. Across the street from the fire hall, tours also were being given of the Brainerd Police Department, which has been at its location a little more than a year.
Also participating in the open house were the State Patrol, North Ambulance, the Baxter Police Department and
and Crow Wing Power. Smokey Bear, Fire Pup and McGruff the Crime Dog also were on hand to entertain kids.
"It looks promising," Underhill said of the event, which usually draws about 1,200 people. "We're doing good so far."
This was the first year Yvette Buehler of Brainerd took her two children, Greta, 5, and Lon, 2. Both children were taking part in the demonstrations at the fire hall.
"My son really loves fire trucks and what better opportunity to come in and see them," said Yvette Buehler. "And the safety stuff is really important, too. It's fun, the kids really enjoyed it."
The open house also was a chance for many residents to tour the new expansion at the fire hall, including a new training and meeting room and a storage garage. Underhill gave thanks to Brainerd residents for the money for the expansion.
"I do appreciate that, very much so," he said.
MATT ERICKSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.
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