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Annual open house set for Sanibel fire district

By Staff | Mar 19, 2019

The Sanibel Fire and Rescue District is hosting its annual open house and everyone is invited.

Station 171 will be open to residents and visitors on March 23 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with the fire apparatus and equipment on display, touch-a-truck opportunities, island organizations on hand, the life safety trailer set up for “experiencing” a fire, firefighter dunk tank, free food and drinks, and more.

“It’s to allow the public to see how we do things in the firehouse, how we live in the firehouse,” Lt. John DiMaria, the event coordinator, said. “They get to interact with the firefighters. It gives them an opportunity to ask us questions and gives them a firsthand look at our equipment and what we use.”

Every apparatus that the district has will be set up for attendees. Also, the Sanibel police will have a department vehicle on site and the Lee County Sheriff’s Office SWAT Team will have its tactical truck.

“All of our fire trucks, including the new brush truck,” he said of the fire district.

New this year, DiMaria is working to add more of a touch-a-truck element.

“It gives an opportunity for others to see these big trucks they see on the road,” he said. “Now the kids and parents get to see them up close and personal.”

For example, the Lee County Electric Cooperative is supplying a truck.

“I’m trying to create a different kind of event to add to the open house,” DiMaria said.

There will be tours of the station and an opportunity to interact with the crew.

“They can tour the training tower,” he added. “They’ll be able to touch all of our equipment and climb inside the truck. They’re more than welcome to take as many pictures as they want.”

“Adults get excited to get in the fire trucks, as well,” DiMaria noted.

There will be hands-on activities for all ages.

“The gear will be available for anyone to touch,” he said. “They can try it on.”

“We let the kids, and even the adults, put their hands on the fire hose and try to shoot it,” DiMaria added. “The kids love running through the water anyway, so it becomes a big splash event.”

Attendees also have a chance to dunk a firefighter, who will be dressed in their gear.

“That’s just for the kids and parents to have fun,” he said. “Last year with all the kids, there was such a big response that I couldn’t not bring it back this year.”

The life safety trailer serves as an educational tool by replicating the conditions of a house fire.

“It provides a little smoke,” DiMaria said. “They’ll be able to crawl through the trailer.”

Organizations like the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge and under-construction Cape Coral Animal Shelter will have booths and provide literature.

“They’ll have a bunch of props on the tables to interact with,” he said.

In past years, CROW has brought along its Animal Ambassadors.

“It’s pretty neat,” DiMaria said.

There will be free hot dogs, chips and drinks, along with ice cream, for attendees to enjoy.

“We’re going to barbecue,” he said, noting that the owner of the Sanibel Fish House is again donating the hot dogs and buns for the event. “He did that last year and it was a tremendous help for us.”

The Sanibel Deli donated the ice cream cups.

DiMaria encouraged citizens and island visitors to stop by.

“I think it’s important for all of the community and all of our visitors to have one-on-one interactions with the firefighters,” he said, noting that it helps build relationships with the people the district serves.

“Community is number one to us,” DiMaria added.

For more information, call 239-472-5525.

Station 171 is at 2351 Palm Ridge Road, Sanibel.