County’s Fire District 6 invites the public in for an afternoon

Open house puts new and old equipment, rescue techniques on display

By Edward Stratton, Columbian staff writer

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Dick Streissguth has seen a lot of changes in his 56 years with Clark County Fire District 6 — starting as a volunteer in 1954, working as a fire chief for almost 20 years, and now serving as a board secretary.

But as he’s helped lead the district into the future, his hobby looks resolutely into the past, as he works to restore fire engines, which he started collecting as small toys in the 1930s.

“They didn’t have computers; they didn’t have all that fancy stuff,” he said. “They figured out on pencil and paper how to make their own gears, how to do their own stuff. American ingenuity is absolutely amazing.”

Two of Streissguth’s 11 fire engines — a 1914 Everett Fire Department engine and a 1917 World War I surplus model — were on display Saturday for a new generation of admirers at a Fire District 6 open house.

In addition, the fire district, sheriff’s office and many other volunteers gave community members an afternoon education on all manner of public safety, emergency response and policing techniques.

Attack, Saber

Saber, the German shepherd K-9 officer, licked his chops, waiting to pounce on the Clark County sheriff’s deputy reeking — at least according to a dog’s sense of smell — of illegal drugs. His trainer, Brian Ellithorpe, released his leash, and Saber bore down on the unfortunate in the bite suit.

“In the long run, the bite dog is safer for the suspect and the officers,” he said. The point of the dog — who can run 28 mph — is to cause enough pain to get a weapon out of a suspect’s hand.

After the recent deaths of K-9 officers in Clark County, Ellithorpe and others have been looking into form-fitting, $2,000 vests for the dogs.

“The law definitely needs to be changed” he said about RCW 9A.76.200, which makes attacking K-9 and horse officers a Class C Felony. “Kicking and shooting a dog is the same penalty.”

Extrication: Scissors, Air Pads or Backstroke

“We have one hour to get the person to the operating room,” said Bill Dunlap, a firefighter and technical rescue crew member. He gave his team 12 minutes to cut apart a Pontiac sedan with pneumatic “scissors” putting out up to 179,000 pounds of pressure, as part of an extrication exercise for the audience at Fire Station 1.

Crews broke out windows and cut off the doors and roof of the car, while small children in full firefighting garb played target practice with hoses in the background.

Moments earlier, Dunlap had stood on a large sheet of concrete being raised off a mannikin in distress by fellow rescue team member Damon Gano using an air pillow hooked up to an electric pump. He said the largest of their pillows can lift the equivalent of “50 elephants.”

Then it was time for Dunlap and Gano to wrestle each other in a stand-up pool, the former trying to pull the latter to safety. Dunlap warned the audience that only people with the proper training should try to pull an uncooperative person out of the water.

Public safety bazaar

Those hiding from the hot sun strolled through the engine room at Fire Station 6, where the community’s public agencies and associations had deployed staff to teach kids about safety and their services. Face-painting, wheels of fortune, a fire escape, fun houses, fire truck rides and discounted bike helmets: All the usual culprits were out for the festivities.

If that wasn’t enough, all the water, lunch and desserts were freely donated — the Salmon Creek Lions Club and Panda Express did the cooking.

Fire district spokeswoman Dawn Johnson said the entire event didn’t cost the fire district anything. Firefighters and EMTs wanted to show their appreciation to a public that recently extended for 6 years an EMS levy at 45 cents per $1,000 of assessed value on property taxes.