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Chester County Press

Fire company demonstrates skills at community event

04/16/2019 09:29AM ● By J. Chambless

The Kennett firefighters dismantle one of three wrecked cars with the Jaws of Life. (Photo by Chris Barber)

By Chris Barber

 Kennett Fire Company firefighters showed off their skills and equipment at a public event on April 13, thanks to efforts of their Chief and an aspiring Eagle Scout.

Ian Dargitz, 17, a junior at Kennett High School, said he was pondering what to select as an Eagle Scout project when a friend mentioned that the Kennett Fire Company – and fire companies in general – are always in need of more volunteers. The friend suggested he go and talk to then-Chief Chris Plumley.

“He told me there are not enough volunteers. In fact, it’s epidemic nationwide. … We had a few meetings and it became an event,” Dargitz said.

Together, they planned a full afternoon of demonstrations so the public could see what it means to be a firefighter. As a secondary goal, he said, they hoped some of the people who stopped by to watch would have an inclination to sign up.

The project, Dargitz said, involved more than him asking the firefighters to re-enact what they do at a call. He had to get publicity out, design a schedule, solicit contributions for snacks and handle the logistics of a public event. Before and after, he had to file plans and reviews to the leaders who would be awarding the Eagle Scout honor.

The afternoon began with a demonstration of how to enter a locked dwelling. Chief engineer Corey Panzram offered visitors the chance to break down a door with fire company tools on a mock building entrance. He did not have many takers until suddenly people gathered around him, eager to take a chance. Some watchers cheered when the volunteers broke through.

The demonstration of the so-called Jaws of Life was next. The vehicle rescue crew dismantled three wrecked cars with pneumatic devices as Plumley explained they had to be specially trained for the task, and that they always had an EMT on hand to supervise the operation and keep the occupants of the vehicle as safe as possible.

Later, the firefighters demonstrated their tools, including the tower, the tanker truck and the hoses.

Several families who brought their young children discovered that the youngest among them were most interested in the dials and gadgets of the trucks – or, as Plumley called them, “big tool boxes on wheels.” The children were invited to take a seat in the cabs of the trucks.

Later, quite a few people tried spraying the fire hoses. To their surprise, the flow of water was so strong that even the heartiest among them found them difficult to handle.

Other demonstrations included the tanker truck and a water rescue with the company inflatable raft.

Inside the firehouse were pizzas, sandwiches, bottled water and cookies -- all donations from local businesses.

On site, in addition to the visitors from the community, was newly appointed Chief, Bruce Mitchell. He is a 38-year veteran of the Kennett Fire Company and has served for eight years as Chief in past years. He is now beginning his new term and was scheduled to be sworn in at the Kennett Square Borough Council meeting on Monday.

Chief Plumley said the Saturday event was just one more way to get the word out that the fire companies need more volunteers. “When they think of being a firefighter, they think ‘I get to go into burning buildings,’ but everyone is welcome here, and we have jobs for everyone,” he said.

The Kennett Fire Company has a roster of between 30 and 35 members. He added that the loss of volunteers is a phenomenon nationwide, not just in the local area.

Plumley said that Kennett and the neighboring fire companies serve as backups when needed to make up for diminishing sizes of crews. The Kennett Fire Company operates out of the fire house on the east end of the borough, just off Cypress Street along Dalmatian Lane. It has been in operation since 1875.

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