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Fire Department 125th anniversary draws hundreds

A large crowd watches demonstrations outside the Park Rapids Fire Hall Saturday for the 125th anniversary celebration.

By Sarah smith

You’ll have to pardon the hosts of Saturday’s quasquicentennial celebration at the Park Rapids fire hall.

Twenty minutes before the festivities were to start (a quasquicentennial is a celebration of 125 years,) the alarm rang as a Blue Lake home’s basement smoke detector went off.

Firefighters raced to the scene. By then the homeowner had put out the fire, but the 11 a.m. celebration was firefighter-less as the troops examined the home for hot spots at the owner’s request.

Hubbard County Deputy Greg Swanstrom raced to the fire hall to man the station, so to speak. It turned out he was also staffing a safety display, so he was in the right place, acting as greeter until the troops returned.

The 11th Open House fun nevertheless started on time, minus a few firefighters and a couple trucks.

The kids’ events were moved inside the fire hall. It was lucky two trucks moved out. The threat of rain held off for the most part of the four-hour celebration.

But moving the bouncing tent, the slide, the face painting and other attractions inside made the squeal level almost unbearable. Kids were having a ball. They were well-represented in the crowd of 600.

Chief Donn Hoffman raised the doors when the demonstrations began outside in the parking lot, so it calmed down measurably.

Firefighters demonstrated the Jaws of Life and exploded airbags. Just the kind of loud noises the firefighters of tomorrow wanted. They begged for more.

Mayor Pat Mikesh reported for duty at midnight Friday to start cooking.

A full meal of pulled pork sandwiches, hot dogs, baked beans, French fries and other goodies was served almost nonstop as the hundreds of guests filed through the food line.

By 1 p.m., 13 hours into his shift, the mayor looked bushed.

But the firefighters were showered with accolades from the public thanking the volunteer squad for its work.

In the past year they purchased a washer for cleaning their turnout gear, lots of new hoses and a pressure tester, a thermal imaging camera and a cordless LED scene light. Those were paid for with public donations.

Families trekked through the trucks arranged outside. Kids beamed as they got to take the wheel of a fire truck, even though they weren’t moving it.

The 26-member squad then had to clean up.

“When you’ve got that many guys helping, it didn’t take long,” Hoffman said. “It was a lot of fun.”

Firefighters left the building by 4 p.m.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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