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Cape Coral fire stations to hold open houses

By Staff | Oct 8, 2011

The Cape Coral Fire Department is encouraging residents to come out next weekend and meet the firefighters assigned to their closest fire station.

The department is marking Fire Prevention Week, which runs Oct. 9-12, with open houses at all of the city’s 10 stations on Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon.

In 2009, more than 360,000 home fires were reported within the United States. Officials reported that 2,565 people died in house fires that year, while nearly 13,000 people are injured every year because of home fires.

“Obviously, we want to emphasize Fire Prevention Week,” Dave Webster, a fire inspector and public education specialist with the Cape department, said. “But, we were very pleasantly surprised with the turnout we got last year.”

This is the second year that the agency has held the open houses.

“More than 800 people attended the open house last year,” he said, adding that the department was simply hoping for 200 to 300 people in 2010.

Visitors to the fire stations, which are located throughout the city, will be provided with a tour of the living quarters and the area where the trucks and engines are housed. People will have an opportunity to get into the vehicles, and firefighters will talk about the day-to-day activities at the station.

“Every station has a different unique discipline, speciality,” Webster said.

He explained that some stations house the dive equipment and crew, while others focus on areas like advanced life support, so each station’s tour will be slightly different. All of the stations are ADA and handicap accessible.

“We’re trying to continue to foster the idea of neighborhood firehouses,” he said, adding that residents are encouraged to visit their local station.

“We want them to consider that their neighborhood firehouse,” he added.

At one station, Fire Station 8 on Southwest First Street, Lee County Emergency Medical Services will have an emergency helicopter on display. Webster noted that the county agency is a partner of the department.

“This was an opportunity for the citizens of Cape Coral to see the newest helicopter in their fleet,” he said.

Visitors can bring cameras to the stations and take pictures.

“We want this to be a fun event,” Webster said.

He explained that firefighters usually only get to meet the people they are serving under stressful circumstances, like an emergency. The open houses offer a chance to interact “in a more casual, a more friendly atmosphere.”

According to Webster, the department learned from the first open house that a lot of people were unaware that fire stations are public buildings and are open – and open to the public – 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“They didn’t realize that they could come to the fire stations,” he said.

People can drop by to visit or they can stop at a station if they need any assistance because all of the fire stations are designated Safe Places.

For example, Webster explained, if a child is walking from school and he or she thinks they are being followed, the youth could go to a fire station. If a motorist is being followed by a vehicle, that driver can do the same thing.

“They also didn’t understand or didn’t know all the different skills or disciplines that people have to know to be a firefighter,” Webster said.

“They didn’t know we have dive teams and boats,” he added.

Visitors on Saturday are also encouraged to being a non-perishable food item. Through October and into November, the fire department is hosting a canned food drive for the Cape Coral Caring Center as the holidays near.

“We’re doing it, hopefully, as a boost for the holiday season,” he said.

Fire Prevention Week has a different theme or focus each year. This year, the theme is “Protect Your Family From Fire.” Handouts on the topic will be available at all of the stations on Saturday, and firefighters will offer tips.

Some simple precautions include having working smoke alarms at home and a home fire escape plan, and keeping flammable objects away from the stove.

For more information about Fire Prevention Week, visit the National Fire Protection Association’s website at: www.nfpa.org.

For more about the Cape fire department, visit: www.capecoral.net.