UNDER CONTROLLED CONDITIONS, Big Lake Firefighter Paul Nemes poured one cup of water on a fairly small grease fire in a pan on a stove. Flames immediately shot up and rolled across the ceiling. Never use water to try to put out a grease fire.

FIre week open house attracts thousands

Staff Writer
Jennifer Edwards


Big Lake Fire Dept. kicked off Fire Prevention Week with an open house at the fire hall Sunday. Gray skies and drizzling rain did not dampen the event. 
Thousands turned out to ride in a fire truck, munch on free hot dogs and popcorn, and choose a free pumpkin from Firefighter Pete Ahrens’ pumpkin patch.
“We had a bumper crop this year,” said Pete, who grows the pumpkins to give away every year. “We had three trailers full.”
Visitors to the fire station brought donations to share with the Big Lake Food Shelf and found plenty of activities and information on how to prevent fire.
One of the most striking was from the State Fire Marshal. A trailer was designed to show how not to put out a fire in the kitchen.
“If a pan catches on fire, the best thing to do is cover it,” said Firefighter Jason Smith. “If  a fire starts in the oven, keep the door closed. It will burn itself out.”
Never use water to try to put out a grease fire. Firefighter Paul Nemes demonstrated what happens when water is added to burning oil in a pan on the stove in the trailer. He poured one cup of water onto the grease fire and flames leaped up in a flash and ran along the ceiling of the trailer. 
Connexus Energy also had a demonstration about power lines and what happens if they are touched by a grounded object, including kite strings and an aluminum ladder.
“The thing about electricity is you can’t see it, hear it, or smell it,” said retired lineman Chris Knutson. “So people aren’t aware of the danger. Electricity is dangerous but we use it every day.”
Always unplug appliances, especially toasters, before working on them. Be aware of overhead power lines and stay away from them. If one comes down during a storm, don’t touch it. Call the power company. If someone is holding an appliance and being shocked, help them by first unplugging the appliance. 
“Water is a good conductor of electricity,” said retired Connexus Energy Electrician John Stumpf. “You are mostly water, so if you are the shortest route to the ground, electricity will flow through you to get to the ground and you will be burned or killed.” 
“Safety is our number one issue,” said Firefighter Smith, who instructs elementary aged children at Liberty and Independence Schools about fire safety. “We would rather prevent a fire because fire is very dangerous,” he said. 
Firefighters demonstrated their new jaws of life equipment, cutting open the door of a wrecked vehicle. 
Children had an opportunity to make their own first aid kit, thanks to participation by CentraCare Monticello, who also opened the doors of an ambulance for them to investigate.
Homeland Security Agency had a table at the presentation, giving away reusable shopping bags and safety information on being prepared for emergency situations, including stocking up on food, water medications, pet food and other supplies.
The State Fire Marshal booth was also loaded with information, including how to seek help for a child who likes to play with fire.
Operation Lifesaver shared information on train safety and the importance of staying off the tracks and away from the trains. 
The Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office was also present, with two members of their mounted patrol. Their was also a canine demonstration and an emergency helicopter landing.
Children had an opportunity to man the fire hose, squirting water at a wooden house to douse painted flames. There were also bouncy houses to play in.
The Big Lake Ambassadors were present, painting faces. All the while firefighters were giving away balloons, plastic fire hats and cookies.
“The place is full. This is the biggest one yet,” said delighted Fire Chief Randy Miller, who estimated 4,000 people attended the open house.
“And it still seems like the biggest attraction is a ride on the fire truck,” he said.


MAX LOFGREN, getting fitted for a bike helmet by Scott Barta, told his mom Alisha the Bike Rodeo was “...the best place in the whole world.”

LIBERTY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL THIRD GRADERS made the audience shiver and shudder Tuesday night with Squirm!, their musical about creepy crawlie creatures. The production had lots of choreography with the singing as well as speaking roles and percussionists. (Photo by Jennifer Edwards).

Kara Zoller, Health Promotions Supervisor