Portales firefighters plan open house

By Eric Butler: PNT staff writer

As Portales Fire Chief John Bridges puts it, it’s not always a good thing for his department to be busy.

This Saturday, though, firefighters will busy themselves with the public as a number of centennial events for Portales begins. An open house is set to take place at the main firehouse.

“The fire department was actually established in February of 1909, so this is kind of the kickoff for the centennial celebration,” Bridges said. “We’re basically going to do what we did last year when we had an open house for EMS (Emergency Medical Services) Week.”

The open house is to allow members of the public close-up views of the ambulances, fire trucks and other equipment the department uses.

Demonstrations, ranging from the Jaws of Life to how firefighters are trained to decontaminate stricken individuals, are also scheduled.

“Most of the interest comes from the kids, but the irony behind that is that there’s some big kids out there who also want to look at a fire truck. They want to see the back of an ambulance,” Bridges said. “Last year, we did an extrication demonstration where we seemed to have the most observation. We brought a car down and had some of our new guys, who hadn’t had a chance to use the Jaws of Life, tear up a car.”

In the decontamination demonstration, called “de-con” by the firefighters, the material to be cleaned up is often chocolate syrup, and it’s squirted all over a firefighter. That’s before fellow firefighters try to scrub it off.

“They’re nice to do, because we get to practice — and we get to show the community what we have to offer,” said Portales firefighter Scotty Watson, who added that a real-life scenario might include hazardous material such as acids.

“In the de-con, the chocolate syrup is really hard to get off with a brush; we have to use a lot of soap. You have to work at it. Plus it’s usually hot, so it runs everywhere,” Watson said.

And, yes, an open house at the Portales fire station includes a old-fashioned brass pole which, unlike in many other New Mexico stations, is still used by firefighters to quickly go from the second floor to ground level.

“A lot of people want to slide down the pole, and we accommodate that (request) sometimes,” Bridges said.

Fast facts
Portales Fire Department Open House
When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday
Where: 301 S. Ave. C