It's Fire Prevention Week, and fire departments around the Pembina Valley are encouraging citizens to "Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware - fire can happen anywhere."
The Winkler Fire Department opened its doors Wednesday evening, giving locals a chance to ask questions, check out the fire trucks, learn about fire safety, and of course enjoy some coffee and doughnuts.
Fire Chief Richard Paetzold says, "it's one week a year where we focus on fire safety. Along with that, we have an open house where we have our taxpaying citizens, kids, and big kids at heart, come and see the emergency equipment we have to respond to emergencies in our communities."
A two-vehicle extrication demonstration was the highlight of the evening, that showcased the teamwork and difficulty that goes into rescuing people from an accident. Between deploying airbags, and removing windows and windshields safely, the Jaws of Life was an exciting feature that allowed the team to take off the doors as well as remove the roof to turn the car into a convertible.
Paetzold says the demonstration allowed them to "go through the steps on what we would do at a scene. As we can see tonight, it doesn't seem all that glamorous and action-packed because we're trying to do it slowly so we're not creating anything bigger than what [it] is already."
"Most of these guys are all paid-on-call volunteer members, and so they do this not because they want to make piles of money, but it's because they want to serve their communities," and Paetzold adds, the open house is a great opportunity for the community to meet the people who serve.
Meantime, the chief of Altona/Rhineland Emergency Services is urging residents to learn how to escape safely in the event of a house fire.
Greg Zimmerman says occupants may have as little as one or two minutes to get out from the time the smoke alarm goes off, and adds knowing how to use that time wisely takes planning and practice.
"Nowadays with the modern construction and synthetic materials, fires do grow relatively fast and people have a little less time to get out of their house," explained Zimmerman.
He is urging homeowners to develop an escape plan for their home, noting the most important part of a plan is establishing a meeting place outside of the home where people can gather and be accounted for in the event of a house fire.
"Please understand that the fire department will be on scene very shortly, within four or five minutes, and it's very important for us to that everybody is out of the house and if not, where they were last seen. That becomes our number one priority."
To end Fire Prevention Week, the Winkler Fire Department and Southern Emergency Response Committee are planning an emergency siren test for Friday, October 12 at noon. The outdoor sirens are designed to alert citizens that are outdoors of danger like tornadoes, chemical spills, or large-scale fires, so that they may seek safe shelter.