No better neighbor than a firefighter: Firehouse event draws a big crowd

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Elijah Techanand

By Lea Kahn, Staff Writer
Elijah Techanand lives around the corner from the Hightstown Engine Co. No. 1 on North Main Street, and he often watches the fire trucks drive down his street on their way to a call.
When his mother, Crystal Techanand, learned that volunteer firefighters were going to talk to children at the Hickory Corner Branch of the Mercer County Library System, mother and son could not pass up the chance to meet them.
“We came out to meet the local firefighters and so Elijah could learn about fire safety,” his mother said as the 3-year-old boy explored the East Windsor Volunteer Fire Co. No. 2’s big yellow fire engine.
“It’s cool that the fire truck is yellow. That’s very cool,” Techanand told her son. Most fire trucks are red.
Elijah and his mother were among the more than 100 mothers and children – and a couple of fathers – who met volunteer firefighters Michael Crismali and Mark Cohen, and Fire Chief Mario Batista.
The firefighters were invited to bring their fire truck to the library as part of Good Neighbor Day, which is celebrated every year on Sept. 28. The holiday was created in the 1970s by a Montana woman, and recognized in a proclamation issued by President Jimmy Carter in 1978.
“There is no better neighbor than a firefighter,” Children’s Librarian Andrea Cozzitorto told the children and their parents. “Not only are they super brave, but they do it on their own time.”
As Cozzitorto read a story about firefighters and what they do, Chief Batista handed out red plastic firefighter helmets. One little boy smiled broadly as he put the pretend firefighter helmet on his head.
Then, “Firefighter Mike” put on all of the turnout gear that firefighters wear to protect themselves from the heat and the flames and the smoke. He put on a jacket, pants, a helmet, a mask and a tank full of air for him to breathe when he goes inside a building that is on fire.
“See what he is wearing. It is very heavy,” Cozzitorto told the children.
Crismali breathed in and out of his mask and tank. When he spoke, his voice sounded muffled and scary, like Darth Vader in the “Star Wars” movie series.
Chief Batista explained that when firefighters arrive at a fire, sometimes there is so much smoke that they cannot see. They get down on their hands and knees and crawl on the floor.
Chief Batista told the children that if their house is on fire, they should get down low so the smoke will not go into their lungs. They should never hide under a bed or in a closet, because the firefighters won’t be able to find them and rescue them.
“No hiding,” Chief Batista said.
He also told the children that once they are outside, they should not go back inside to get a pet or a toy. The firefighters will go inside and get it, he said.
Then it was time to go outside to look at the fire engine. Some of the children climbed up into the cab, while others walked around the fire engine.
Crismali opened the sliding doors on the fire engine and showed the children some of the tools that firefighters use – from axes to bolt cutters to a pole with a hook that is used to pull down the ceiling to look for more fire.
The fire engine carries 1,000 gallons of water in a tank, so firefighters can begin to put out the fire right away. There are large hoses on the fire truck that are hooked up to the fire hydrant to supply more water.
“That 1,000 gallons of water runs out faster than you think,” Crismali said.
Children who missed the Good Neighbor Day program can meet the firefighters when East Windsor Volunteer Fire Co. No. 2 holds an”open house” on Oct. 14, between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., at the firehouse at 69 Twin Rivers Drive.