Fire company opens doors to say 'thanks'

October 08, 2007|By HEATHER KEELS

DARGAN - Seven-year-old Calista Plante steps to the plate, winds up and - SPLASH!

Volunteer firefighter Tracey Pearrell is in the dunk tank. Again.

"Sign this girl up!" her father, Russ Plante, a state police trooper from Keedysville, tells the chief.

One day, the Potomac Valley Fire Co. might do just that.

The company, which has served southern Washington County for more than 40 years, has recruited many members of its all-volunteer force from children of emergency responders who grew up around the firehouse, said firefighter Gordie Ingram, whose grandfather, father and uncle have all worked as volunteers.

Sunday, the fire company hosted its first open house since the opening of its new building in 1999, and about 350 people stopped by for games, fire safety demonstrations, firehouse tours and door prizes.


Pearrell, who helped organize the open house, said the main purpose was to get the word out about fire safety in honor of National Fire Prevention Week, which began Sunday. She also hopes to strengthen the company's connection with the community, which it relies on for donations and volunteers.

Dozens of children lined up for activities like the dunking booth, a bucket brigade game and a "safety house" tour, but the hands-down favorite was the pie toss station, where children - and some firefighters - took turns flinging plates of whipped cream at volunteers.

"The kids actually had better aim," admitted firefighter Amber Hewett after her shift as a pie booth target.

Aidan Walters, 6, of Fairplay, was waiting in line for the dunk tank with two of his siblings and two of their neighbors when he got a surprise tap on the shoulder from Smokey Bear. The fire house's unofficial mascot, a Dalmatian named "KME" after a brand of firetruck, also made an appearance.

Meanwhile, parents enjoyed a DJ's music from the shade and admired the fire company's shiny new Pierce Enforcer pumper truck, which the company bought in June with the proceeds of fundraising events. The truck has a 1,000-gallon water tank, a 30-gallon foam system and a light tower the company says will be a big help in illuminating car accidents on dark country roads, Ingram said.

The company has come a long way since it was started with one engine and a tanker on donated land in 1966, said Harry Bussard, one of the company's founding firefighters.

"I never dreamed I'd live to see this sitting here," he said, indicating a new building completed in 1999.

Everything from the building and the new fire truck to the staff itself would not exist without the community's support, and Sunday's event was the company's way of giving back, Pearrell said.

"It's a small company, but we're proud of it," she said.

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