Biddeford Fire Department Lt. Matthew Leach shows a student how to properly use a fire extinguisher during the fire department's annual open house held at the Biddeford Fire Station on Saturday. ED PIERCE/Journal Tribune

Biddeford Fire Department Lt. Matthew Leach shows a student how to properly use a fire extinguisher during the fire department’s annual open house held at the Biddeford Fire Station on Saturday. ED PIERCE/Journal Tribune

BIDDEFORD — Hundreds of residents turned out to see the Biddeford Fire Station up close during the fire department’s annual open house on Saturday and much of what they saw was eye-opening to say the least. 

Held in conjunction with National Fire Prevention Week, the open house was a chance to meet firefighters, learn about their important jobs protecting the city and receive some valuable tips that could help save lives.

Biddeford firefighters teach a child how to rappel during the fire department's annual open house held at the Biddeford Fire Station on Saturday. ED PIERCE/Journal Tribune

Biddeford firefighters teach a child how to rappel during the fire department’s annual open house held at the Biddeford Fire Station on Saturday. ED PIERCE/Journal Tribune

Participants were given instruction in the proper use of fire extinguishers, how to stop a grease fire in the kitchen, watched demonstrations of how firefighters use the jaws of life to extract victims of serious car crashes and inspected the cabs of the department’s trucks.

There were presentations about the use of CPR and car seat safety checks for parents of small children.

Graig Morin of  Biddeford brought his 3 1/2-year-old son Elliot to the event and said everything he saw during the open house was impressive.

“My son wanted to see the fire trucks and the firemen,” Morin said. “I think our favorite though was the old fire truck in the fire museum.”

Guests at the event could walk through the fire museum at the fire station and check out the department’s 1924 Ahrens-Fox fire truck on exhibit there.

Firefighters showed children and their parents how to use different fire hoses, why hazardous materials incidents are dangerous to public health and how to use cardiac AED defibrillators to save lives. Kids met Sparky the Fire Dog, had their photographs taken in the cab of a fire engine and tried on firefighter gear, learned to rappel up and down a fire rope, and enjoyed face painting.

Fire Lt. Matthew Leach was busy throughout the event assisting the public in learning about the use of fire extinguishers and how to best put out cooking fires.

“I think a lot of people know how to operate fire extinguishers, but not so much about how to put out cooking fires,” Leach said. “They usually say I should know this and are surprised at how easily cooking fires can be surpressed.”

Leach said the best way to stop a cooking fire is not to spray it with water, but to cover it with a lid and cut off the supply of oxygen feeding the fire. 

Chief Greg Kapinos of the York County Emergency Management Agency attended to show participants an array of equipment and materials used by the agency to resolve hazardous materials incidents.

“We are funded by York County and through state and federal grants and we wanted to be out here to show the public what we do,” Kapinos said. “We have the equipment and expertise to use when its needed.”

Kapinos has been chief of the agency for a year and said that the Emergency Management team works closely with municipal and town fire departments across the county when dangerous situations arise and haz-mat mitigation is required.

“We’re out there every day, but many people aren’t aware of what it is we do,” Kapinos said. “That’s why we are here and we’re grateful for the opportunity to tell our story.”

Biddeford firefighters provide fire protection, advanced life support ambulance service, fire prevention and special rescue services covering more than 33 square miles in the city with a force of 45 full-time personnel and 30 on-call firefighters.

They must be prepared to respond to all calls for help and to provide emergency medical services in a moment’s notice. 

Calls could involve residential commercial fires in the city, vehicle accidents, automobile and brush fires, hazardous material spills and situations, or to perform river and ocean water rescues, among other tasks, including assisting during fires in other towns and locations.

Deputy Fire Chief Paul LaBrecque said that the purpose of Saturday’s open house was to educate the public about not only the fire department itself, but also to offer valuable fire safety education.

Along with Biddeford firefighters and EMTs, representatives of other agencies met participants and talked to them about their roles in the community. Some of those agencies included the Maine Forest Service, the Maine Warden Service, Scarborough Police Department, York County Emergency Management Command Van, York County Juvenile Fire Coalition, Bicycle Coalition of Maine, Magical Moonwalks, Sugarloaf Ambulance Squad 51 and Firehouse Subs. 

“This is just the second time overall that we’ve done this and it’s a great way of getting across to the public of what we do every day and to give everyone better understanding of what it means to be a firefighter,” LaBrecque said.  

— Executive Editor Ed Pierce can be reached at 282-1535 ext. 326 or by email at [email protected]


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