Storms again moved through the county this year for National Night Out, but first responders didn’t let that dampen events in Sheffield and LaGrange.
National Night Out, held the first Tuesday in August, is a campaign inviting law enforcement and first responders across the country to enhance their relationships with the communities they serve through events like block parties and barbecues. Like last year, rain kept some from coming out — even canceling or postponing events in parts of the county — but some still braved the weather to talk with residents.
At Clearview High School, fire crews from Elyria and Sheffield townships were joined by the county Bomb Squad — a fast favorite with the children in attendance who followed the squad’s larger robot around the event. Similar to the county SWAT team, the unit is under the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office and is staffed by officers from throughout the county.
Tuesday evening Deputy Nathaniel Krueger, an apprentice bomb tech, and North Ridgeville Officer Ian Wilkshire, assistant bomb squad commander, were giving tours of the unit’s truck — and becoming increasingly popular as the rain continued to pour.
Krueger explained the unit has two robots, the larger one making its rounds at the high school, and a smaller one that was in Sandusky for another Night Out event. He went on to show how techs would determine if a package was a threat, X-ray it to determine how to disarm it and potentially fire a water canon with the larger robot to neutralize any threat.
Wilkshire said National Night Out is a chance for the public to see what their tax dollars fund. The majority of its funding comes from Department of Defense grants or local facility grants.
“It’s one of those things that (we) probably get more work than you think,” he said. “A lot of it’s disposal, like maybe grandpa died and then family goes to clean out his basement and finds (explosives) that he brought home from Vietnam or something.”
Sheffield Township fire Capt. Richard Husar said the event is a chance for fire departments to instill fire safety and prevention tips to parents and children.
Some of those tips include keeping bedroom doors shut at night to slow or prevent a potential house fire from spreading and keeping working smoke detectors in the house.
“The best way to stop a fire is prevention of the fire,” he said.
With the department for more than 30 years — and from a long line of firefighters for the township — Husar said his department has responded to more than 870 calls this year including fire and EMS. The department is a mix of staffed and volunteer/on call shifts, so National Night Out is a recruitment tool too, Husar said.
“We want people to come join and be part of the team, it’s the best team there is,” he said.
He estimated Tuesday’s event was the fifth or sixth for Sheffield-Sheffield Lake.
In the southern part of the county, LaGrange hosted its first National Night Out at the Village fire station on Main Street. As storms moved in, vehicles were moved out of the station to make room for tables, chairs, a community band and attendees to take shelter from the rain.
LaGrange’s event was organized in part by Councilman Rick Honer and his daughter, Amanda.
Honer said he’d heard about National Night Out events and wanted to bring something like it to the village, hoping attendees take away a sense of community and camaraderie with their first responders.
“The rain brought everybody into the fire station where the police officers and the fire department mingled with the community and that was really nice to see and that was a nice experience.”
Mayor Kim Strauss said residents need to meet their emergency service members.
“They’re people like everybody else,” he said. “They have families, they want to go home too and I think that will help as long as we keep promoting this, I think we have a very good group of community officers, this just gets them a little closer to the community and the same with the fire department, first responders all of them.”
Honer said they plan to participate in National Night Out annually from now on, learning from what worked and what didn’t during their first year.
Lorain, Wellington and Oberlin canceled their events due to inclement weather. Lorain plans to hold its event in September. Wellington postponed theirs until 6 p.m. Thursday at the Town Hall. Oberlin did not schedule a make-up date Tuesday.