Welcome to Tuesday Travels, a summertime series at Traveling with Baby. Now that the weather’s warming up and we’re about to launch into summer, my son and I are excited about sharing some local daytrips and field trip ideas with you. This year, we’d like to share about local options, most of which are places and activities that are available at almost any community or town across the country.
I enjoy hearing about your traveling adventures, too. If you have an idea for Tuesday Travels, please e-mail me: drgarnecki[at]gmail[dot]com.
Do you have kids who are fans of fire engines? There’s just something mesmerizing about the shiny read trucks with flashing lights and whirring sirens that makes kids squeal with delight.
We recently visited the local fire station in downtown Charlottesville with two of Calvin’s friends who were ages 2 (almost 3) and 4. My son’s friends pretend to be firefighters every single day. They have drills where they quickly dress up in their boots, coats, and hats and ride off to fight the fire. Before bedtime, their mom tells them to get in their bunks and rest up because firefighters need their sleep to have strength to fight fires.
So, we took our crew of 3 young boys to the local fire station for a tour. It turns out that Calvin’s friends had a cousin who was on duty at the station that day. The firefighters were in the middle of routine testing of ALL of their water hoses to make sure that they work appropriately. However, they were kind enough to allow Firefighter Steve to sneak away from the testing to give our little guys a grand tour.
Each of the kids got their turn at the driver’s seat of the big fire engine. Even the oldest had at least 2 feet to go before his feet could reach the floor. Although Calvin may not have fully absorbed the fact that this was a special type of truck (because he kept calling it a “car”), he was livin’ large at the wheel of the fire engine.
Firefighter Steve showed us all of the buttons, pressure gauges, and switches on the side of the fire engine. The boys were especially impressed with the hydraulic lifts on the steps leading up to the doors–they close automatically once the doors are shut. We also learned that a firefighter’s uniform and gear weigh an additional 35 to 45 pounds. That doesn’t even include carrying things like a water hose, axe, or other special equipment for fire and rescue. I told Calvin that it was almost like carrying around two of him (he weighs 26 pounds).
Just so you can appreciate the size perspective on the wheels of the fire engine, check out my 2 foot 7 1/4 inch toddler next to one. Wow!
Now, you can see a 1.5 year-old, almost 3-year-old and 4 year-old next to a wheel and engine. The two brothers were doing their best to hold Calvin’s hands prevent him from running away while I was snapping this photo.
Inside the garage, the engine and water truck are parked very close together. We wanted a chance to capture the boys next to the engine and Firefighter Steve. The boys are also looking at the ginormous ladder truck that’s the length of both the engine and water truck combined! It is so large that I couldn’t possibly capture it in a photo while so close to it inside the covered garage. But, I did get to catch the logo on the ladder.
Ladder trucks aren’t very common. Firefighter Steve has served at the local station for over 7 years, and in that time, the ladder truck has only been used 4 times. He said it’s mostly for times when they need to get on top of a roof to fight a fire. The massive ladder can span up to a 3-story building. The truck is SO large that it requires a driver in the front AND the back. Wow! Let’s hope they both know where to go.
Each of the boys got their souvenir photo with a brave firefighter in front of Engine 7 which has emblazoned on the front grill “America’s Bravest.” There’s no doubt in my mind that each of those men and women are indeed among some of the bravest Americans who cheerfully and dutifully serve and put their lives on the line. It was such an honor to meet Firefighter Steve and to learn more about their role in fire fighting.
The boys were ecstatic to receive a special tour of the upstairs quarters where the firefighters eat, sleep, and relax on duty in some very cozy recliners. The walls of the upstairs quarters were painted with murals of popular childrens’ characters along with fire safety tips including how to use a fire extinguisher and smoke alarm safety. The word on the street is that the kid-friendly approach to fire safety at Charlottesville’s downtown fire station inspired the Liberty Mutual “Where’s the Fire?” exhibit at Disney’s INNOVENTIONS at Epcot.
In Charlottesville, the firefighters don’t slide down poles to get to the engines, rather, they have to run down 3 flights of stairs in the hopes of not tripping over one another. However, their inspiration is an ever-growing mural comprised of the hand prints of the young visitors which reads “The Hands We Protect.”
If you’re in town, stop by Charlottesville’s station on Ridge Road and have your little one trace his hand on the wall, add his name, date of visit, and which color he’d like to have painted for his hand.
Calvin had one of the smallest hand prints on the wall.
As an extra special treat (as if this visit couldn’t be topped), Firefighter Steve presented each of the boys with their very own Firefighter’s hat (courtesy of Liberty Mutual) and a glow in the dark key chain. Calvin’s been asking to wear his hat everywhere.
So, aside from the fact that these heroes train hard and work diligently when there’s a fire, they also teach little ones in the community about fire safety. Charlottesville’s station sets up a some cool community education classes (click on “community education” in the sidebar) which includes a free smoke detector program, pre-school fire safety training, and home fire drills.
So, call up your local fire station to ask about a tour. Or, if you live in Charlottesville, stop by the downtown station any time. You can watch them wash down the fire trucks every day at 5pm.
–By Dr. Dolly