By Anne Eickstadt


Sparky the Fire Dog begs to be rescued from a second floor window as the firefighters demonstrate their rappelling techniques.

The annual Belvidere Fire Department (BFD) Open House on the first Sunday of October came back to a happy crowd and a new theme. They had many activities to participate in and demonstrated firefighter techniques that had the crowd mesmerized.

The BFD Honor Guard marched in bearing flags, accompanied by bagpipes, to open the event. The Pledge of Allegiance was recited by the crowd and Firefighter Adam Ellwanger sang the national anthem. Chief Hyser welcomed everyone and explained why the BFGD holds the Open House in October each year. 

“Fire Prevention Week was established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire,” Hyser said. “The tragic 1871 fire that killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 people homeless, and destroyed more than 17,400 structures. The fire began on Oct. 8 and continued into, and did most of its damage on, Oct. 9, 1871.

“According to popular legend, the fire broke out after a cow belonging to Mrs. O’Leary kicked over a lamp, setting first the barn, then the whole city, on fire. This cause has been legend for more than 130 years but there is no proof.

“This was one of the major fires that changed the way that firefighters and public officials thought about fire safety. On the 40th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire, the Fire Marshalls’ Association of North America decided that the anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire should be observed in a way that would keep the public informed about the importance of fire prevention.

“In 1920, Pres. Woodrow Wilson issued the first National Fire Prevention Day Proclamation and, since 1922, Fire Prevention Week has been observed on the Sunday through Saturday period in which Oct. 9 falls. At 99 years, this is the longest running public health and safety observance on record.

“I know there are plenty of things that you could be doing today, but you chose to be here with us at the BFD. We hope that you enjoy yourselves and take away some valuable information about fire safety. In addition, learn what your local firefighters do and are capable of doing to meet our mission of providing an outstanding fire/rescue/EMS service to our citizens.

“Special thanks to our Belvidere firefighters, Lifeline and OSF crews, Boone County Firefighter Explorers, Bagpiper Patrick Powers and the Belvidere High School Cheer Team.”

The BFD Honor Guard then led everyone to the back of the fire department and the fun began. Kids were able to use fire hoses to “extinguish” fires in a crafted building and vehicle, enjoy a large bounce house, learn to use a fire extinguisher, and have pictures taken with Sparky the Fire Dog. The Bucs cheer team handed out ice cream sandwiches to anyone who wanted one. The public was invited to explore the firehouse and see where the firefighters, eat, sleep, and train.

The BFD Extrication Team demonstrated how they take apart a vehicle to rescue a victim trapped inside. Another BFD team showed how a ladder truck can be used to anchor rappelling ropes and they walked down the wall of the firehouse to show how they are able to rescue people that have fallen into trenches or silos or any other deep place that is difficult to access.

The line for families to take pictures with Sparky the Fire Dog was longer than the lines to extinguish fires, enter the bounce house, or get ice cream. Sparky offered fist bumps (paw bumps?) and hugs as well as photo ops, pleasing many, many kids and parents. He also had pics taken with the EMS personnel at the event.

The theme they have this year is “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety.” They distributed information about how to distinguish the sound of a fire alarm from the sound of a carbon monoxide alarm and how to respond to each one.

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