Clap or we’ll shower you!Published 9:03am Thursday, August 6, 2009
By JOHN EBY
Dowagiac Daily News
CASSOPOLIS – Heroic rescues are the order of the day for Engine No. 1 at three daily Fire Fighter Training Shows at the Cass County Fair.
The fire station is located at the top of the midway, just inside the main gate.
The 158th fair continues today through Saturday.
Four youngsters with their arms waving were plucked from the audience Wednesday afternoon at 2:30 to suit up in coats and hats, roll hose, attach it to the truck and a nozzle, tote fire extinguishers and compete, boys vs. girls, to blast the audience with a water cannon from atop Tower 1 if they aren’t clapping and cheering their efforts enthusiastically enough.
The boys – Logan Smith of Decatur, who danced animatedly while buffing the fire engine with a towel, and Anthony Nemeti, who was more laid back with his eyes concealed behind sunglasses – outmaneuvered the girls, Rebecca Swartz of Marcellus and Allison Velie of Elkhart, Ind.
Everybody gets to crawl through the smoking house.
As “stars of the show,” they’ve already rescued an overstuffed yellow smiley face and a purple alien from the smoldering building by crawling beneath the smoke to rescue anything trapped inside.
They chorused that firefighting was fun, if not as easy as they thought it looked.
Their perks are that they get red fire hats for free instead of having to pay a dollar, everyone’s taking their photograph and, as the winning duo, Logan and Anthony climb the tower and take aim at the audience with their big squirt gun, though their plans could be dampened.
The kids immediately learned a valuable lesson about volunteering.
Yes, they volunteered because they wanted to help out.
Volunteering also means that, like real volunteer firefighters, they aren’t working for pay – just applause, in this case.
The girls elect to go first, giving the boys an immediate advantage because they could learn from watching how they tackled the task.
Since the girls have no previous firefighting experience, they start out with rags (“one of the basic firefighters’ tools”), polishing the gleaming red truck.
Their dance moves to War’s “Cisco Kid” break ties.
Suddenly, a call comes in.
The girls jump on the back of the truck for the coiled hose, which needs to be attached to the truck and to a nozzle.
Orange flames in the windows vanish as they meet their stream of water.
With the blaze under control, they crawl into the dark interior beneath curls of non-acrid smoke billowing from the structure and recover their SpongeBob SquarePants-colored “victim.”
“Look over there,” the fire chief directs the junior firefighters’ gazes the Daily News’ way. “People magazine is here. Or maybe it’s Newsweek. You guys are heroes.”
After he puts the boys through their training paces, the battle of the sexes gets underway in earnest.
They race to be first to disassemble their equipment and to return it to the truck.
He reminds them, “A big part of firefighting is planning and training,” like deciding before an alarm sounds who will get the hose, who will grab the nozzle and how they can work as a team to lug the bulky fire extinguisher into position.
“You guys might want to talk it over while you polish the truck. You’re on duty,” he said, while ducking inside the smokehouse to “set” a fire. “Only trained firefighters are sent inside to rescue. Your job is to get outside and stay outside.”
The firefighter program is put on primarily for entertainment, with more serious messages underlying: in case of fire, “don’t hide, get outside. We’ve all got smoke alarms with new batteries, right? Get on your hands and knees and crawl low, under the smoke, to get out of the house. It was a friendly competition. We’re all on the same department out here, just training.”