'You hope the day never comes'

Kensington Harker, 4, puts out a triggered fire during last week’s Spring Lake Fire Prevention Open House at Central Park.

SPRING LAKE — On the surface, last week’s Spring Lake Fire Department’s open house at Central Park was all about fun. But deep down, it was about safety.

Several hundred families attended the Sept. 19 event, which featured a visit by the Spectrum Health Aero Med helicopter, police cruiser, fire truck and ambulance displays, a police dog demonstration, simulated burning house, food, games, balloons, and treats.

Nunica resident Valerie Becker brought her 7-year-old daughter, Paige to the event.

“We came to experience this wonderful community and see all the firefighters and first responders – and, of course, get all the goodie bags,” Becker said.

Paige said her favorite part was “being with my BFF, Summer.” Paige and her best friend, Summer Patterson, also 7, ate hot dogs and sipped hot cocoa next to each other at a picnic table.

Summer’s mom, Courtney Patterson, also of Nunica, said she loved seeing the community come together for the kid-oriented event.

“It’s a fun, free night out, and it’s great to meet our local heroes,” she added.

While Paige and Summer played with their balloons, 8-year-old Eli VanSlyke of Grand Haven sat nearby in a police cruiser. As the police officer taught Eli how to turn on the lights, a smile brighter than the overhead red and blue neons crossed his face.

“I’ve never been in a police car before,” the boy said.

However, the police cruiser wasn’t his favorite event of the night.

“I loved the helicopter,” Eli said. “It’s just really cool. I’ve never seen a real one before.”

Cody King and Hollie Pykonen, paramedics with the North Ottawa Community Hospital ambulance service, gave tours of their vehicle.

“I love this event,” King said. “It’s a good way to give back to the community and teach kids not to fear us if ever they need our services.”

King and Pykonen encouraged kids to lie down on the vehicle’s bed so they could perhaps feel more comfortable if ever they need an ambulance transport.

“You hope the day never comes, but just in case,” King said.

Kensington Harker, 4, was one in a long line of kids who used an extinguisher to put out a triggered fire. “I liked that I could put out a fire,” the Nunica girl said.

Her dad, Kenny Harker, said it’s an important life lesson.

“I think it’s great all the kids get to learn about fire safety,” he said. “And it’s good to see all the service people out here.”

Spring Lake Fire Chief Brian Sipe said he loved the village’s Central Park location for the open house. Recent events have been held at Mill Point Park and, prior to that, at the 148th Avenue fire station, which has since been sold.

“I think we’re here to stay,” Sipe said of the Central Park location. “It’s a great atmosphere for the kids. I think Central Park is a great venue for us – it gives us some space and a great opportunity to show the services available in this community.”

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