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BFD hopes to scare up funds for equipment: Event at Exchange Club Park scheduled for Oct. 31

The Brookhaven Fire Department has teamed up with the Exchange Club to host Halloween in the Park on Oct. 31 in hopes to scare up funds for rescue equipment.

The Exchange Club Park rides will be in full operation on Halloween from 6 to 10 p.m. for a safe, fun and family-friendly event the fire department hopes will bring in funds to supplement tight budgets. The department is aiming to buy the same types of equipment that were brought in by other agencies to rescue the 4-year-old boy who fell in a well on Labor Day.

Before that incident, BFD Captain Eric Smith approached Chief Tony Weeks with an idea to start a technical rescue team within the department. Smith and other members took specialized rescue classes such as confined space courses, two levels of rope rescue, passenger train rescue and structural collapse. Then they got to the point of needing equipment, Smith said, and when they saw the regular budget wouldn’t have the funds, they knew they had to get creative.

“We approached Robert Dale Leggett with the Exchange Club and asked if he would consider helping us with a fundraiser. He invited us to a meeting in mid-September and we explained to the club what we were trying to do and what we needed,” Smith said. “They were extremely supportive and before we even left that night they had already planned the Halloween night event. They were extremely helpful and we’ve been working on that since that time.”

During the event, Exchange Club Park will be much like it is during the big annual fair — with the rides up and running, the concession stand offering refreshments and the games and activities down the walkway will be going, too.

There will be a costume contest for kids ages 5 and under with Halloween treat prizes. Armbands for ages 6 and older will be $10 and armbands for kids 5 and younger will be $5. All the proceeds will go to the BFD.

“It’s something we’ve got to do to keep up with the growth in this city and as a fire service to be ready,” Smith said. “We always hope we never have to use it, but if something happens we’ve got the training and equipment to proceed without any delay of time.”

The fire department is looking to purchase equipment for safe patient removal; air exchange fans and monitoring equipment; ropes, pulleys and tripods for extraction from confined spaces like wells and a trailer to haul it all in. This rescue equipment is not cheap, either. Smith and Weeks said $15,000 would be a great start, but just a start to get the more necessary items. Smith said as they are called in to more and more situations that aren’t strictly fires, the department needs to be able to respond quickly.

“We have to be responsible for being able to give 100 percent to the city of Brookhaven,” Smith said. “If you go to a structure fire and you don’t have a fire engine you’re not doing very much. It’s the same in this kind of stuff, you have to have the equipment. Time determines if it is a rescue or a recovery.”