For the first time since the start of COVID, the Indian Mills Volunteer Fire Company in Shamong hosted its annual Fire Prevention Open House on Oct. 13 at its headquarters on Willow Grove Road.
According to company officials, the event offered residents the opportunity to tour the firehouse and see equipment and vehicles up close, and gave them the chance to meet local first responders.
The open house also showcased not just vehicles from Indian Mills, but also companies such as the Evesham Fire Department, Medford and Medford Lakes, Green Bank Volunteer Fire Company, Hammonton, Winslow Township, Waterford and others, including departments that participate in mutual aid.
The most important aspect of the event in recent years has been the educational component instilled in children who attend.
“Believe it or not, we’ve seen a lot of good results from having this over the years,” said Capt. John Smith. “It does get through to the younger kids; we’ve proven that in prior years, when stuff happens and the young ones are the ones that call 911 first. It gets through to them, it really does.
“And of course,” he added, “an event like this really brings the town together every year … We feel that we picked up where we kind of left off with it. The public-school system used to have a haunted house every October, but when they stopped having it, we feel like we’ve done a good job of giving the community something to come out to in the fall.”
While engagement with kids is important and includes activities from locker tours to games and activities and more throughout the night, the open house also enables residents to get to know responders, while the company can gauge interest from prospective volunteer firefighters.
“It’s important for the public to see that this is their fire company, so they get a chance with this to come in and see our station, meet our folks, see our trucks and ask any questions they might have,” said company member John Lyons.
“Education is the biggest thing with the open house, but we also have the chance to kick off our fundraising time, which is crucial – since we’re 100 percent volunteer – and engage with some people that might be interested in volunteering,” he added.
On hand was Shamong Mayor Tim Gimbel, who said it was a welcome sight for the open house to return after two years.
“I think we’re all still trying to get back to as normal as best we can, and holding an event like this again is a step in the right direction towards that,” he noted. “It gives the community something to do in being able to walk their kids around and interact with some of the equipment and vehicles …
“And it serves as a big recruitment piece for them.”