Fire department open house combines fun with safety, prevention information SOUTHEAST -- Sykesville * Eldersburg * Gamber

Danny Leibensperger, age 10, stood under the fire hose as it pointed skyward, and watched with delight as the water formed an umbrella that sprayed the crowd nearby.

"Everybody got wet except me," he chortled, "because I aimed it straight up."


His younger brother Mathew was more impressed by the Jaws of Life, a hydraulic device used to pry open crunched autos to free the occupants.

"Awesome," Mathew declared.


The Jaws of Life demonstration attracted many of the visitors.

"It's amazing," said another onlooker. "They have a least a half-dozen pieces of equipment just to get you out of a car."

The demonstrations were among several Sunday that were held at the Sykesville-Freedom Fire Department in Eldersburg to kick off Fire Prevention Week.

At least three times as many people as expected came to the firehouse as officials there expected.

"We thought this would be a nice kick-off," said Deputy Chief Mike Hill. "We expected about 100 people to come, but there must have been 100 people the first hour!"

The open house was such a hit that the department plans to make the fest an annual event, he said.

In addition to firefighters, some wearing protective clothing over their uniforms, there were ambulance drivers and emergency care technicians, Wizard of Oz characters, Miss Carroll County Fire Prevention candidates and a Dalmatian named Humat.

There also were slide shows of actual fires and training events, and "Stop, Drop and Roll" demonstrations in which children enthusiastically participated.


Children were allowed to help firefighters operate a fire hose, or see fingerprinting, firefighting and emergency care demonstrations.

Some took ambulance and fire engine rides.

The fun began for many with a follow-the-yellow-brick-road tour of the fire hall, where Wizard of Oz characters answered questions and charmed the children.

"The fire engine was best," said Robert Livesay, 2. Michael Shenk, 7, agreed. But he said he also liked "squirting the fire hose."

Some visitors came because Scouts in their families can earn merit badges by learning proper fire prevention and safety procedures.

"My two sons are Cub Scouts," said Kermit Leibensperger, "and the Cub Scout theme for October is fire prevention and safety."


Others came to learn how to prevent home fires and just to have fun.

The firefighters had fun with a remote-control "fire hydrant," rolling it up to some of the children, making it beep and and blaring its built-in siren.

Humat, a Dalmatian owned by Libby Luebberman, barked furiously at the device, which beeped in response.

"The kids love the dog," said Mrs. Luebberman, an emergency medical safety captain. "We brought him from home. He doesn't live here."

The firefighters were eager to explain how the 911 emergency phone number works.

"When you dial 911 you reach the EOC [Emergency Operations Center]," said Deputy Chief Hill. "You tell them whether you want police, fire or ambulance. If you want police, they connect you with the police dispatcher; if you want fire or ambulance, they match your address with the proper fire department, and call us."


The EOC can get your address on the phone, he explained, and the number from which you call shows up on a screen along with the complete address, which is immediately matched to the closest firehouse.

"The biggest problem usually is to find out what people want," said Deputy Chief Hill, "because people tend to panic when they have an emergency, or sometimes they simply can't talk."

The responding department gets a printout from EOC that lists the caller's address, problem, and other information as soon as they answer the call from an on-line computer in the firehouse's communications room.

"We have a five-minute response time," said Deputy Chief Hill, "which means if we don't have our vehicles on the road in five minutes after we're called, EOC calls the next-closest department."

The volunteer force also was eager to enlist more volunteers.

"You don't have to go out fighting fires to help us out here," said Deputy Chief Hill. "There are plenty of other ways you can help without leaving the hall. There are administrative tasks, maintenance -- even just helping us with a carnival or this open house would be great."