Archive for Thursday, June 23, 2005

Fighting fire with fair

Annual open safety fair brings local departments to town

June 23, 2005

The scene on a stretch of Eudora road Saturday could be taken straight from a Hollywood movie. Smoke will pour from a children's maze while firefighters in full regalia will be surrounded by groups of curious onlookers.

As the drama is played, a helicopter will provide a background beat as it lands ready to lift someone away to safety.

There will be no great natural disaster, but the event will be something that comes naturally to Sue Coleman -- safety.

Coleman is a firefighter and first responder for the Eudora Township Fire Department and organizer of the third annual Open House and Safety Fair. It will run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday in front of the Eudora Township Fire Department, 310 E. 20th St."Basically, I do it because I really believe that the best way to fight fire is with prevention," Coleman said.

She will be bringing together volunteers from all branches of the public safety spectrum. There will be representatives from both the Eudora City Fire Department and the Eudora Township Fire Department as well as those from the police and emergency medical fields.

Coleman said she was proud to have emergency dispatchers along as well.

"It puts a face to the voice," Coleman said.

New this year are a trailer from the Community Emergency Response Team and representatives who are trained in identifying and disposing of hazardous materials.

"It's a good way to get to know personnel in a non-emergency type situation," Coleman said.

Perennially, the most popular attraction has been the safety response helicopters. There will be three different helicopters coming in every two hours starting at 10 a.m., Coleman said.

"You'd be amazed at the skills of these pilots," Coleman said. "They could land in fields or gravel roads. They could land everywhere."

Once they have landed, children will be able to talk to pilots and get a closer look at the whirlybirds.

Dan Hudson is the chief nurse for LifeStar of Kansas. He said the volunteer firefighters are big supporters of LifeStar's services.

"Whenever they have an open house or fund-raiser, we want to come out for them. We want to return the favor," Hudson said.

It's especially important because the volunteer firefighters are on call from 2 a.m. until 2 p.m., Hudson said.

"It's pretty neat for us, too," Hudson said.

Apart from being a hub where the community can meet its public safety workers, the safety fair is a way for the community to learn more about the Eudora Township Fire Department, Coleman said.

As a department, the township firefighters are in charge of a larger area than their city counterparts, from County Line Road to 1800 Road, but still work extensively with them, Coleman said.

"We all volunteer our time, and we just want to be available," Coleman said.

Eudora City Fire Department Deputy Fire Chief Mike Underwood puts in a lot of time to make the safety fair work and sees its value for the children.

"It gives them a chance to hear us and see us fully bunkered in full gear in case we have to get into their house," Underwood said.

Volunteers have worked for weeks to prepare everything.

Organizer's even had the Eudora City Council grant permission to cordon off a full block of 20th Street from Durkin's Hardware to Broers Automotive. There will still be parking available to both of the stores, Coleman said.

With two years under her belt, Coleman is looking for this to be the best safety fair yet.

"I think I'm most proud that people appreciate and see how hard the volunteers work," Coleman said. "They see we're doing this for the community."

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