MONROE, CT — Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Catalano and a group of fellow firefighters from the Monroe volunteer fire company visited children on the last day of Monroe Summer Day Camp’s Hero Week Friday morning.
Children sat down in the parking lot outside Monroe Congregational Church’s Rexford House, wide eyed over the red fire engine on display, as firefighters showed off the specialized equipment it was carrying.
One day earlier, the campers got a visit from K-9 Officer John McAulay and his police dog, Murphy.
“The dog’s pretty cool, but I think we have a better truck,” Catalano said with a smile, taking a playful jab at Monroe’s Finest. “See that shiny part in the middle,” he asked, pointing to the side of the fire truck. “That’s where the water comes out. See the nozzle and the hose?”
Monroe firefighters Adam Pavlik, Matt Scanzillo and George Roelofsen participated in the demonstrations, along with Junior Firefighter Cameron Yencik.
Catalano pointed to all of the gauges on the side of the truck. “Believe it or not, we actually have to know math pretty good,” he said of making sure settings are correct.
“Who knows what this is?” Catalano asked about a fire extinguisher in front of the truck. “You would have it inside the building,” he said. “It helps put out a little fire.”
In addition to fire fighting equipment, firefighters have rescue equipment, including the Jaws of Life, a power tool that can cut into a vehicle to free someone if a driver or passenger becomes trapped after a crash. A whirring sound could be heard when Yencik held it up and turned it on.
Catalano said firefighters also have water rescue equipment when someone needs help getting out of a body of water.
Scanzillo held up a big fan, explaining how it’s used to disperse heavy smoke. Catalano said firefighters use flashlights to navigate through smoke filled rooms. The firefighters also showed the children the breathing apparatus they wear on their backs like backpacks, while breathing oxygen through a mask.
“We have all the special gear and you don’t,” Catalano said, adding of a house fire, “that’s why you go outside. You have to leave your toys. The firefighters will take care of that. You have to get out and stay out.”
He said it’s always good to get outside quickly and to stay low, because heat rises.
Catalano asked the children if they know what to do if an adult is not around during an emergency. One boy correctly said to call 911.
Before the children got to climb into the fire truck, Pavlik wore all of the fire gear, which includes a coat, a helmet, boots and the breathing apparatus.
“Do you think he gets hot in all that stuff?” Karen Mucherino, a co-director of the camp, asked.
Catalano said firefighters do get hot wearing all of their equipment in the summer, adding a firefighter needs to rest at times to stay fresh and avoid overheating.
Catalano pointed to Pavlik’s last name, written in large yellow letters on the back of his coat. He said this helps firefighters tell each other apart when they’re all suited up on a call.
Yencik let a boy wear a light blue fire helmet, which is for the juniors. “The others are black, because they took special classes,” he said of firefighters helmets.
Junior firefighters are younger and can assist at a scene, but cannot fight a fire directly, according to Yencik, who is 17.
A boy told Yencik he liked the truck. “I like the trucks too,” Yencik replied. “That’s why I became a firefighter.”
The toddlers lined up to go inside the fire engine and Mucherino lifted them into the truck when it was their turn. The children sat in the seats and marveled at their surroundings.
“This is really cool!” one boy exclaimed.
A few of the children sat in the driver’s seat.
After seeing the camp’s youngest children, the firefighters talked to two groups of older ones. As a parting gift, Catalano handed out coloring books with lessons on fire safety.
Catalano said it’s always fun to show children the fire trucks and equipment. He added, “and you never know, you may get someone who gets the bug early and grows up to be a firefighter.”