A young boy no taller than four feet is pounding on a rubber car tire with a hammer a couple times before briskly following a fully-equipped firefighter over to a station, grabbing a fire hose, climbing up two flights of stairs and emerging with a baby mannequin. He’s not done yet though…he follows the firefighter over to the other side of the yard and helps drag a full body adult dummy a hundred feet and then crawls through a culvert.
“All right, we gotta put that fire out,” the firefighter tells the young boy, and they race over to another fire hose, carry it a few feet and turn on the nozzle, the strong spray of water knocking over some cones.
This was a glimpse of the hit kids’ agility course that the Sparks Firefighters Association offered as part of its 4th Annual 1st Alarm 5k run/pancake breakfast. Serving 540 people pancakes and hosting 50 runners/walkers in the 5k, Sparks Fire Department Engine 21 Captain Kevin Jakubos said that everyone had a great time at the event that took place on Saturday.
“The only caveat with that is that a lot of firefighters registered but were out fighting the Northern California fires and couldn’t participate,” he says. However, hundreds of people still came together in downtown Sparks to run the 5k and then enjoy a pancake breakfast that included eggs, ham, coffee, juice, and more along with other activities such as a live kitchen fire demonstration, a safety puppet show, and a “Jaws of Life” vehicle extrication.
The agility course was the hit of the event as kids of all ages lined up and waited to go through the course set up behind the fire station.
“We had a solid line of kids for four hours,” says Jakubos. “As a kid, I always wanted to be a firefighter and this gave them the opportunity to practice what we do,” he says. “We always have a fire prevention message and hit them with the safety education aspect pretty hard, but this gave them the opportunity to be a firefighter for a few minutes,” he adds. Jakubos especially enjoyed partnering up with his son who also wants to be a firefighter someday.
The event kicked off with the 5k run starting at 7:30 a.m. on the west end parking lot of the Nugget and runners/walkers maneuvered through Victorian Square, going to the movie theater and new development area and ending at the fire station. Even though the Sparks Fire pancake breakfast has been held for at least 45 years, including the 5k as part of it has led to an increase in attendees.
“A lot of guys in my age group go out and do runs on the weekends,” says Jakubos. “Physical fitness is important, especially for our job. There were lots of wives jogging with strollers and practically every guy in the department has kids, so this combination of events hits all generations,” he adds.
While Jakubos says that the other fires presented logistical challenges for holding this event- and fall is generally the peak of fire season- the Sparks Fire Department tries to hold it during National Fire Prevention Week.
“It’s easier to coincide this event with National Fire Prevention Week because now is when the fire is on everyone’s minds,” says Assistant Fire Marshal Chris McCubbins. “The theme of it is knowing two ways out and when to call 911, so that’s what we emphasize during this event,” he adds.
Sparks Fire did send out one fire engine and overhead positions to combat the Northern California wildfires and a couple of firefighters just returned from helping mitigate the damage left by Hurricane Maria.
“They left on September 24 and just got back yesterday (on October 15),” Jakubos says. “This is a tough time because fire season is in full swing.”
Sparks Fire regularly puts out information regarding fire danger warnings through all sorts of media outlets and Jakubos encourages those to check them for updates.
“When we release a public service announcement, it’s for a reason. A fire is devastating and when they get big like that, it’s no joke. Understand what a red flag warning really means and what we’re talking about. If you follow safety guidelines then you can greatly reduce your risks,” he adds.
“(The 1st Alarm 5k/Pancake Breakfast) went really well, it was a great partnership between us and the community,” says McCubbins. “We were able to showcase what we have, but we can’t do it alone,” he adds, naming off community partners such as Costco, Blue Ribbon, and NV Energy that helped out with the event.
“We had activities going on throughout the four hours so if you just showed up and had pancakes then couldn’t help but see what the fire department does on a daily basis,” McCubbins says. He also noted that he was touched by how people contributed food and monetary donations to show their support to the fire department.