Open house 1By Shelby R. Farrell


BELVIDERE – More than 600 people flooded the Belvidere Fire Station on State Street at their second annual open house, kicking off Fire Prevention Month.

Fire Chief Al Hyser said the event grew by the hundreds from last year, which was the first time the Belvidere Fire Station held an open house in over 10 years. Hyser said the event, which was on Sunday, Oct. 4, succeeded in its goal of bringing in members of the community to see the day-to-day activities of the fire fighters.

“One of the big things that we like to do is just open up who we are here and what we do and give everyone an opportunity to meet their local fire fighters,” he said. “It appears like everyone had a good time with it, our guys especially. A lot of time, you don’t get to see us in a relaxed kind of open house atmosphere.”Open house 2

Relationships between the fire fighters and members of the community were fostered through many different activities at the event, including tours of the station and fire trucks. Other activities at the event included watching a helicopter land, free ice cream, jumping through an inflatable obstacle course, squirting the fire hose at the “mini flame house” and meeting Sparky, the official mascot of the National Fire Prevention Association.

Lt. Shawn Schadle coordinated tOpen house 3his year’s open house, and he said having the event was important for educating the community on everything that the fire station and the fire fighters who work there can provide.

“I want them to know that we’re here for them,” Schadle said. “It’s a chance for them to come out and see us and see the equipment at the station and just kind of all the resources that they have available for immediate emergency response.”

Education on Belvidere’s emergency response wasn’t the only think being taught at the open house. Hyser said a big part of the event was to kick off Fire Prevention Month, which is an extension of the nation-wide Fire Prevention Week.

Fire Prevention Week is usually recognized as the second week of October or the Sunday through Saturday with Oct. 9 in between. It began after the great Chicago Fire of 1871 as a way to educate the public and prevent another catastrophic fire. This year’s theme for Fire Prevention Week is “Hear the Beep Where You Sleep,” and targets education and safety related to smoke alarms.

“Make sure your smoke deOpen house 4tectors are working,” Hyser said. “Check your batteries. Make sure that everything is in working order.

“A lot of times in the middle of the night when we’re all sleeping, the smoke will overcome you. You don’t have the opportunities. You need to have something working like the insurance of a working smoke detector.”

Between 2009 and 2013, an average of 940 people died per year in homes without smoke alarms, which is 38 percent of home fire deaths, and an additional 510 people a year were injured in fires where there was a smoke alarm, but it failed to operate, according to a survey from the National Fire Prevention Association and the National Fire Incident Reporting System.

The survey showed that the leading cause of the failed smoke alarm was because of power source issues, or dead batteries.

Hyser said it’s recommended that the batteries in smoke detectors are changed twice a year, but it’s more important to check the alarm once a month by pushing the test button until the siren goes off. If the alarm doesn’t sound or is weak, the batteries need to be changed. Hyser said making sure everyone has a working smoke detector is one of his biggest concerns in the community.Open house 5

“We kind of take for granted smoke detectors,” Hyser said. “Everyone knows, yeah that’s the thing on the ceiling, but most people don’t know if theirs works. They never really look at it. They’ve never cleaned it. They’ve never done anything with it, and I guess they’re just hoping that it works when it has to work, so it’s probably just a failure of most people to realize the importance of working smoke detectors.”

To learn more about the Belvidere Fire Department visit their official website at:

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