It was a nice Night to be Out in Greenfield

National safety campaign finds big local crowd

Aug. 13, 2013

Greenfield — Kids thrilled to see real SWAT team equipment and crowds marveled at a fire truck ladder raised to dizzying heights.

It was one of the memorable sights Aug. 6 in what was considered another successful National Night Out at Konkel Park in Greenfield, said Assistant Police Paul Schlecht.

"Attendance, we believe, was up a little this year," Schlect said, attributing the crowd to near-perfect weather and the likelihood that more people now know about the event. As an attendance gauge, he noted that more than 1,000 free hot dog or brat meals were served.

The police and fire departments, park and recreation staff and others combined to hold the local edition of the safety campaign observed in communities all over the country.

Well-equipped outing

There were police dog demonstrations, a bouncy house for the kids, and all sorts of city equipment to be seen from front-end loaders and dump trucks to police squad cars and fire engines.

A lot of the attractions were hands-on and kids and adults could climb around inside an armored car used to move SWAT teams into position under fire. The car, which is housed by the Milwaukee Police Department, is available for use by all communities and can carry eight SWAT team members in the back, plus the driver and passenger, Schlecht said.

Very popular with the younger set was the police motorcycle display, where kids could sit on the cycles and even have their pictures taken with an officer.

Hot demos

A stunning side-by-side burn demonstration drew as many as 150 people. The crowd saw small newspaper fires in wastebaskets in two simulated living rooms suddenly burst into an inferno in one room and turn into a soggy lump in the other room equipped with a fire sprinkler.

The idea of the demonstration is to get people to appreciate how fast a small fire can turn a room into a death trap, said Assistant Fire Chief George Weber.

Fire flashed over the unsprinkled room in about 2 minutes, 45 seconds. "That one was like a big fireball," Weber said.

Firefighters knew that would happen and were standing by to put out the blaze.

You can tell people to be careful with fire, Weber said, "but that fire could have been a cigarette that was thrown away and three minutes later you're not going to survive that room."

The stunning demonstration gave firefighters the chance to repeat warnings that probably most in the crowd had heard before: Don't discard smoking materials in waste baskets, don't put things in front of space heaters, etc.

The side-by-side rooms were on loan from the National Fire Sprinkler Association. But it was up to firefighters to furnish the 8-by-8-foot boxes to look like living rooms. To do that, they scavenged curbsides.

The police dog demonstration began with police cars screaming onto the scene chasing a truck. The driver jumped out and Greenfield's two police dogs ran him down and apprehended the pretend bad guy.

Another part of the demonstration had one of the police dog handlers dressed as an elderly woman and pushing a shopping cart. A purse snatcher grabs her purse and runs away. But he doesn't get very far because out of the shopping cart jumps a police dog who quickly catches him.

Social occasion, too

As interesting as all the demonstrations and activities are, Schlecht said his favorite part of National Night Out is always the relaxed bantering. Usually police contacts with residents are tense because they are victims of crimes, have seen crimes or they are getting tickets.

"It's nice to get to sit and talk with citizens in a relaxed atmosphere," Schecht said.

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