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Meet local firefighters, try on fire gear, put out ‘flames’ during Princeton Fire Department’s open house

The Princeton Fire Department will celebrate Fire Prevention Week with an open house.

The open house offers an opportunity for visitors to meet firefighters and to examine the fire trucks and equipment, said Ron DiLapo, who is a fire safety community risk reduction specialist for the Municipality of Princeton.

The celebration is set for noon to 3 p.m. Oct. 16 at its headquarters at 363 Witherspoon St., Princeton.

Fire Prevention Week is held from Oct. 9-15.

There will be free food – hot dogs, cotton candy and popcorn, give-a-ways and lots of activities for children, including an inflatable “bounce house,” DiLapo said.

Children and adults can pick up a fire hose and squirt it at “fake flames” as they try their hand at putting out a “pretend fire,” using a special Princeton Fire Department prop, he said.

Youngsters can also try on some of the firefighters’ gear – the jacket, pants, boots and helmet that they wear when they respond to a call for a fire, DiLapo said. And of course, they can sit in a fire engine.

Sparky the Fire Dog will pay a visit, DiLapo said.

“We want to make people aware of what we do in the community to keep them safe from fire,” DiLapo said.

The Princeton Fire Company, which was a predecessor to the Princeton Fire Department, was formed in 1788, but organized fire protection predates its founding, according to a history of the fire department on the town’s web site at www.princetonnj.gov.

The first volunteer firefighters were faculty and students at The College of New Jersey, which is Princeton University’s original name. They were provided with leather buckets to carry water to a fire and two ladders soon after the college’s opening in Princeton in 1757, the website said.

Residents of the village of Princeton soon realized that they could not depend on the students and faculty to provide fire protection to the community. A handful of men gathered to form the Princeton Fire Company, according to the town’s website.

Volunteer firefighters provided fire protection for 232 years, from the fire department’s inception in 1788 until 2020, when the Municipality of Princeton hired its first six paid firefighters. The Princeton Fire Department is a combination fire department, relying on paid firefighters and volunteer firefighters.

Meanwhile, National Fire Prevention Week, which is sponsored by the National Fire Protection Association, is celebrating its 100th anniversary, according to www.nfpa.org. The goal is to teach children and adults on how to stay safe in case of fire.

National Fire Prevention Week is held during the week of Oct. 9 to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire, which occurred Oct. 8, 1871, according to www.nfpa.org. The fire killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 people homeless and destroyed more than 17,400 buildings.

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