The Philomath Fire & Rescue Open House and Strengthening Rural Families Health Fair will run from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Fire engine rides, cool demonstrations and a wide range of valuable health and emergency response information will return to Station 201 on Saturday with the revival this year of the Philomath Fire & Rescue Open House and Strengthening Rural Families Health Fair.

“This is probably one of our biggest events,” Deputy Fire Chief Rich Saalsaa said. “It’s something that we really do gear up for all year.”

The event, which is being held for the first time since 2019, is scheduled to run from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Oct. 15 at the fire station on Main Street.

Saalsaa sees the event as a great opportunity to just interact with the community.

“They get a sense of not only what we do, but the equipment that we use … we’re doing hands-on CPR training so they can participate in that up close,” Saalsaa said. “And it’s an opportunity actually to have the community look at the possibility of becoming a volunteer … do a little recruiting to say, ‘hey, you know, if you want to help out your community, this is a great place to do that.’”

The fire department’s open house had been a hit in past years during the fall in Philomath — and not just for those toddlers running around in plastic firefighter helmets.

“The fire engine rides — that’s for kids of all ages,” Saalsaa said. “It’s not just the little ones that want to take a ride in the fire engine.”

Another popular activity gives participants an opportunity to operate a fire hose.

“We have a house prop and the kids can get out and actually squirt water,” Saalsaa said. “They can actually hold the hose right off the back of one of our brush rigs … and squirt water at the house and knock flames out kind of thing.”

Other attractions that have proven to be popular in the past include an appearance by Smokey Bear, the U.S. Forest Service icon, as well as an Oregon Department of Forestry tabletop exhibit that illustrates fire behavior. Maxtivity Arts & Crafts will be a new addition offering art-related activities.

The Strengthening Rural Families Health Fair part of the event will feature the participation of several vendors and the Fire & Rescue open house has several emergency response agencies scheduled to be on hand. See the event’s flyer for a list of safety partners and sponsors.

“Benton County Health will be here in force between the pregnancy folks and dental care — all sorts of things,” Saalsaa pointed out.

Saalsaa also mentioned sponsors that donated money so Fire & Rescue can distribute free smoke detectors.

“That’s a very big thing … we rely on community donations like that so we can help people who can’t afford smoke detectors,” Saalsaa said, adding that the fire department always carries smoke detectors on its vehicles in case they are needed while meeting the public on calls.

Last year, Philomath Fire & Rescue participated in a drive-through event with the Corvallis Fire Department at the Benton County Fairgrounds, which at the time was staged with pandemic-related precautions in place. No event occurred at all in 2020.

In 2019, Strengthening Rural Families merged its annual health fair with the Fire & Rescue open house.

Beyond just being a fun activity, Saalsaa said the open house motivates the fire department to “do spring cleaning in the fall. … It’s a good time to kind of hose out the bays and get all the cobwebs out.”

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.