Four-year-old Sadie Wehling loves to pretend to put out fires and rescue relatives. When her family drives by a fire station, she asks “What’s in there?”
That curiosity led her and many other hopeful firefighters to Vancouver Fire Department’s Fire Station 2 on Saturday, blipping around a crowd of more than 50 who attended its grand opening. Fire Station 2 is one of a pair of new, upgraded facilities that opened near downtown this weekend with smarter alarm systems, traffic control and a combined $15 million price tag.
Even with those bells and whistles, the youngest generation was all about the classics. Kids wore red, plastic fire helmets and suited up in firefighter costumes. They explored the ins and outs of fire engines and met the real men and women who use them. They helped Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle cut the station’s ribbon, after she thanked the community for its support and the firefighters for their work.
“Our firefighters are beloved and revered in our community, and rightfully so,” she said. “These are the brave men and women that every day rescue our loved ones, save our property and our belongings, and (respond to) every other kind of emergency you can imagine.”
It was a sentiment that drove many young families to attend the grand opening. Kneeling near Fire Station 2’s bay door with daughter Sadie, Amanda Wehling said attending the event helped her daughter envision what daily life was like for the men and women who respond to those emergencies.
“I think they want to show children that these people are here to help us, and to show them what they do when they’re here,” she said.
Other parents said they hoped to inspire their children. Geoff Bishop, the son of a firefighter, said he hoped to see his own three sons learn more about the job and their grandfather.
“It was somewhat to show where grandpa worked, and to show them they could follow in his footsteps,” he said.
Josh McKee simply hoped to entertain his 2-year-old son, Jack, a natural firefighter. McKee said his son’s favorite television characters are firefighters, he regularly blows out candles in the house and has more than once tried to throw cups of water on bonfires at friendly gatherings.
“It’s not fun when you’re camping and you finally get a fire going,” he said, laughing.
If any of the kids in attendance became firefighters, it wouldn’t surprise the station’s captain, Jay Getsfrid. The same thing happened to him in the 1950s, driving past the old Fire Station 2 on Main Street and being so fascinated about it that he wound up working there years later.
“Some of them will look at this and say, ‘This is amazing,'” Getsfrid said, pointing to a fire engine. “And any one of them could be driving this engine 20 years later.”