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A dry Night to Unite brings out crowd of 350

Posted 8/11/15 (Tue)

A dry Night to Unite brings out crowd of 350

By John D. Taylor
Ron Hudak and Paloma Lesmas were the first two people who toured the “smokehouse,” at Crosby’s Night to Unite last Tuesday evening, and both called the experience “interesting.”
The smokehouse – a Pioneer village building set up to simulate what being in a dark, smoke-filled space was like; to teach people to get low, below the smoke, where there is still oxygen available, according to Fire Chief Travis Running -- was just one of a couple of the “ramped-up surprises” that Night to Unite coordinator, Sheriff’s Deputy Zach Schroeder, promised for this year’s annual event.
Schroeder delivered on his promises, too, putting the event together with the help of the sheriff’s department, the Crosby Volunteer Fire Company and the Divide County Ambulance District at Pioneer Village, and the Crosby Area Chamber.
He said it usually takes about a month’s work to get everything and everyone together.
“You just can’t ask these guys to show up six months beforehand, it doesn’t work.”
Inside the smokehouse, Running demonstrates how a new fire-fighting tool, a $7,000 FLIR camera, can detect thermal images and help firefighters find their way through thick smoke.
In the closed-in blackness of the house, where “smoke” was created by a theatrical smoke machine (it was actually a vapor, Running said, hoisting the liquid out of the smoke-maker’s carriage), such cameras help firefighters find people trapped in a building. 
The thermal images also reveal hotspots in walls and can help firefighters situations with confidence, while expediting  decisions.
The image in the camera directed across the room was of a person standing against the far wall, something not visible with the naked eye.
Such cameras can also detect recent handprints and footprints.
Running told how, at a demonstration of the camera, he saw a person walk quickly across a floor bare-footed. When the lights were turned off and the FLIR turned on, the images of the man’s footprints were clearly marked on the floor.
Another surprise -- one Schroeder couldn’t orchestrate – was good weather. No rain after two consecutive near Night to Unite washouts, which helped with the turnout.
According to Crosby Area Chamber President KayCee Lindsey, 350 free meals of hamburgers and hot dogs were provided as a customer appreciation event – cooked by NCC’s Heidi Robbins, Bob Unnich, Dina Edwards and Jilene Zerr – along with beans, potato salad and watermelon.
While the smokehouse was one great example of how Night to Unite, a national effort focused on keeping communities united and safe from threats such as crime, fires or medical emergencies, works; another was the sheriff’s deputy K-9 unit demonstrations.
The dogs, Smokey, Mikko and Braun, and their handlers, Deputy Jason Pohlkamp and Burke County Deputy Nick Throntveit, showed how Braun took down a bad guy – Deputy Kyle Martin – and how Smokey detected drugs. 
The training these very specialized dogs receive for their K-9 duties takes up to 15 weeks, depending on how the officer and the dog relate, the audience learned.
An even better demonstration was the evening’s finale, a joint demonstration of Divide County’s sheriff’s department, fire company and ambulance squad and Valley Med Flight.
The scenario: a two-vehicle rear-end crash, the result of texting and driving, putting five people in need of first responders. This also served as an accredited training exercise for those involved, Schroeder said.
The sheriff’s deputy responded first, identifying what needed to be done and helping accident victims by dispatching ambulances and the fire company to the scene.
As the fire trucks and ambulance arrived, lights flashing, sirens roaring, they extinguished fires and took care of the injured, prioritizing who needed critical care. A Valley Med Flight helicopter was also dispatched to pick up the critically injured.
Yet the night was far from totally serious.
In a building set up for kids’ games, Dean Throntveit and Chris Johnson enjoyed playing ring toss. 
Also, Aliza and Liam Pulvermacher and tiger-faced Aidan Dahl –  courtesy of the face painting booth -- happily explored the interior of Valley Med Flight’s helicopter, which gets 50 to 75 calls per month, according to pilots Jeff Rubens, Matt Vangrinsven and Marcus Pearson.