By BETH ALTENA For all we knew, our building was about to go. In the early afternoon on Tuesday, August 11, the lower level of the Squire Newspaper office filled with smoke. It smelled like an electrical fire, but the staff couldn’t identify the source. It was frightening, and the staff made the right call, the Rockford Department of Public Safety. For years we have written about the success of the combination of departments of police, fire and public works, and the quick and impressive response at the Squire during an actually emergency was proof the new system, which saves taxpayers a half million dollars a year, also provides and even better response than traditional departments. Chief Jones was there immediately and in four minutes there were three fire trucks and numerous emergency vehicles at our location. We were advised to evacuate and waited outside as fully-prepared first responders entered the building with their gear and accessories to look for hot spots in our walls, search the property where the smoke and smell was located and otherwise protect our property. You could see from the attendance that responders were from all of the combined departments. The fire fighters on the scene were the same people we just photographed preparing an emergency response in the case of an active shooter in a public school building. The people we saw in Rockford t-shirts are the Department of Public Works employees, now seasoned firefighters as well, who dropped their work on our city grounds and other duties to respond to a fire threat.’ “You wouldn’t see a response like this in even a big city,” Chief Dave Jones said. Jones noted that he was nearby and able to reach our location quickly. Officer Robinson was also close and everyone else was ready to respond if our fire had progressed. In addition to Chief Jones, who started his career as Chief of Police, and now leads the combined departments, we had Fire Marshall Mike Reus, who annually inspects buildings in Rockford to watch for dangerous practices (he found a gas-operated piece of equipment in our office dangerously stored next to the furnace one year). Newly trained Arson Inspector Jason Bradley was able to try out his new skills (we […]
Rockford Fire Department
By BETH ALTENA Passersby on Main Street may have noticed the deteriorating condition of a duplex home at 269 N. Main and 271 N. Main as ongoing firefighter and police training this summer is causing the residence to be increasingly damaged prior to eventual demolition to make way for a newer home. In the structure Rockford firefighters have been practicing six different scenarios with all the required responses. Rockford Public Safety Officer Ian Graham said city employees have been practicing Downed Fire Fighter, Mayday, Search and Rescue, Firefighter Escape, Ventilation and Ladder Training. They have filled the structure with a non-toxic smoke simulation to replicate the conditions caused by a smoke-filled home. They have broken out through interior and exterior walls simulating rescuing an injured comrade and practiced finding and rescuing injured residents within the structure. Rockford fire fighters, like many professions, require ongoing training to prepare for the sometimes dangerous job they do. Likewise, police officers are required to continually hone their skills to deal with worst-case scenarios and every day duties. In Rockford’s combined Department of Public Safety, the cross-trained force does double duty in training as well as in response. Officers, all cross-trained as fire fighters, recently completed a simulated Active Shooter incident in Valley View Elementary where live rounds are replaced by simulated ammunition, which Graham said actually hurt, but don’t kill if they strike you. With Rockford Public Schools currently replacing the entrance of every school in the district with new safety measures in place, it is hoped no shooter will ever cause an incident here, but Graham said police use schools because they are large buildings to train for techniques that would be applicable in any structure where a bad armed person could threaten or attempt violence. Ever since the first school shooting in Columbine, police across the country have trained in how to respond to such a worst-case scenario. Like the training taking place this summer in the home on Main Street, this type of hands-on practice simply can’t be simulated with classroom learning. “It’s very rare we get a house to practice on, so we take full advantage of it,” Graham said. He described those taking training first receive classroom training in the Fire Department, then respond […]
Dunk an officer, play in fire hoses National Night out is one celebration you don’t want to miss, coming right up on Tuesday, August 7 around the country from 6 to 8 p.m. Locally, planning is nearly complete for this year’s event, which takes place on Maple and Main streets in the parking lot where Northland Pontiac once stood (west of the Rockford Fire Department garage). All local law enforcement, each of Rockford’s eight Neighborhood Watch organizations, Rockford Ambulance and the representatives from the Helen DeVos Safe Kids will all be present. Nationally the event was started to encourage neighbors turn on their outside lights and go out to celebrate crime prevention. In Rockford, National Night Out is one of a half dozen community policing programs and one of the most inclusive events in proactive crime prevention. Those who come downtown for activities will have the chance to talk with Rockford police officers, firefighters, Kent County sheriff’s deputies, and troopers from the Michigan State Police, including our own Rockford-based K-9 officer with his German shepherd. According to organizer Officer Aaron Sawyer, National Night Out (NNO) is one of a flurry of summer community events in which his department participates. NNO comes on the heels of the Rockford Area Triathlon and the D.A.R.E. golf outing. “It’s a lot of fun,” Sawyer said. Each of the Neighborhood Watch associations will have a table under the big tent and will have either giveaways, games or information about crime prevention. The Rockford Fire Department will have a fire truck on the site, spraying mist for kids—or adults—to run or walk through to cool down. Members of the Rockford Firefighters Association will be manning the grill and handing out hotdogs, pop and chips free of charge. Always a popular offering, the police dunk tank will be set up and children are invited to throw a softball and dunk a Rockford police officer. Hundreds of your neighbors and city officials will be at this celebration as communities across our nation celebrate crime prevention together. An added benefit is the chance to mingle with the men and women who work hard to keep you safe all year around. Sawyer said good relations with law enforcement is a key element in community safety […]
For some relief of a very hot day, the Rockford Fire Department brought a pumper and hoses to the Rockford Public Schools (RPS) administration building to cool kids off. Much to the delight of the students in the preschool through fifth-grade summer care program, firefighters sprayed water for the kids to run through. Many thanks from RPS and students to the Rockford firefighters for their kindness!
The Rockford Fire Department helped make the last few days of the Rockford Public Schools Summer Kids Rock program full of fun as they brought two fire trucks to the Parkside Elementary School playground and sprayed water into the air for the kids to play in. According to organizer and teacher Steve Brown, it was the highlight in a week of fun activities to celebrate the end of the summer camp. “Every year the fire department does this for us at no charge,” Brown said. He noted the department brings two trucks in case an emergency requiring the attention of the fire department should occur. Fire Chief Mike Reus said the department is always happy to accommodate the request. The camp is attended by about 200 students from kindergarten through sixth grade. In addition to playing in the spray from the fire truck, the children enjoyed a day of track and field events, a scavenger hunt through downtown Rockford, and an ice cream social. Brown said the program is offered by Rockford Public Schools Childcare Services each summer. He came up with the name Summer Kids Rock because it sounded more fun than Summer Care. Brown said Chief Reus also offered to bring a truck in for a cooling spray if next summer has extremely hot days such as this summer did.