The DeForest Windsor Fire and EMS opened their doors on Saturday afternoon giving kids a rare opportunity to visit and explore.

Department members were able to do outreach at the Family Fun Night in Fireman’s Park in September, bringing out their tower truck and doing ambulance tours, but educational opportunities have otherwise been few and far between.

Ordinarily, members of the fire department would organize regular activities at Eagle Point Elementary, bringing their trucks and ambulance for kindergarteners to explore. Much of it is designed to make sure young children recognize firefighters as friendly before there is an emergency, according to Fire Chief Steve LaFeber.

“Traditionally kids are scared of firefighters when they come into the house because they’re all decked out in their gear and stuff, so it’s a matter of gaining their trust early and saying, ‘Hey, we’re here to help, not hurt,’” said LaFeber. “We’ve struggled the last two years getting out to the youth. Obviously because of COVID, we haven’t been to the schools in about two years now.”

On Saturday, firefighters focused on the core safety messages for kids: know your smoke detectors and make sure they work, have emergency plans and know where to meet, and “stop-drop-and-roll.” The message to adults is not very different, although LaFeber said that there are now more home fire prevention options like residential sprinkler systems.

“That is something we support,” said LaFeber, “but that is something to do through your builder, hardwiring detectors, those kinds of things you can get in when you’re building a house if fire safety is one of your concerns.”

Part of their adult outreach is also letting the public get to know them and know about projects that are coming to the forefront for local taxpayers, including renovation of the fire station and construction of a second station at Windsor Crossing.

In order to effectively talk about these projects, the department needs to educate the public about how the department runs, such as that they are not a village department, but overseen by the DeForest Windsor Fire and EMS District Board.

Additionally, it is not entirely common knowledge that DeForest Windsor Fire and EMS does not refer to two departments, but that firefighters and EMS are one and the same, and that as LaFeber has explained, “it just depends on which truck we take.”

Although COVID still made an impact that they nixed plans for food, the department was able to meet and greet and get back to outside activities, like CPR lessons, the dunk tank, and fire hose target practice.

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