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Princeton Fire Department to hold open house

The Princeton Fire Department will celebrate Fire Prevention Week with an open house on Oct. 8.

The open house is free and runs from noon to 3 p.m. It will be held at the Princeton Fire Department at its headquarters at 363 Witherspoon St.

The open house is 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.

There will be free food – hot dogs, cotton candy and popcorn – and give-a-ways and lots of activities for children, including a 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.

They will also learn how to use a home fire extinguisher, which is not as easy as it looks, DiLapo said.

A kitchen fire safety station will show the common causes of kitchen fires and how to put them out. There are about 170,000 kitchen fires every year, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Youngsters can try on some of the firefighters’ gear – the jacket, pants, boots and helmets 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 Dog will pay a visit, he 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. Organized fire protection predates the fire company’s founding, according to a history of fire department on the town’s website 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 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.

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.

National Fire Prevention Week, which is set for Oct. 8-14, aims to teach children and adults how to stay safe in case of fire. It is sponsored by the National Fire Protection Association.

National Fire Prevention Week is held during the week that includes 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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