Photo Gallery | Great Barrington Fire Department open house

GREAT BARRINGTON — Sebastian Ortiz-Mielke, 7, was having a heck of a good time Saturday morning, sitting behind the Great Barrington Fire Dept. garage, spraying water from a fire hose.

"It was really fun," he admitted afterward.

Sebastian, accompanied by his mother, Erica Mielke was at the Fire Department's open house on Saturday morning, along with a few other families.

He was asked by a reporter if he wanted to grow up to be a firefighter.

"Yes, I do," he said.

"Well, as long as it doesn't interfere with being a Power Ranger," observed his mother, wryly.


Sebastian impatiently informed his mother that the Red Power Ranger, Austin St. John, is an Emergency Medical Technician. Shows what she knows.

Saturday's open house was twofold, according to Great Barrington Fire Chief Charles Burger.

"We're giving the public a chance to see just what it is we do, and give them a chance to see our vehicles and equipment up close and ask questions," he said. "Just as important, we're giving people an opportunity to see what it means to be a firefighter. I hear people say all the time that they're too busy to volunteer. I think it's the best job in the world."

There are presently about 30 active firefighters in town. Burger said his department is always looking for volunteers.

In addition to a firehose drill, visitors got to watch an extrication and there were CPR demonstrations.

The extrication involved removing a (very) lifelike dummy from a vehicle. In addition, members of the department gave a forced entry demonstration.

Capt. Marc Palumbo oversaw the demonstration. He explained that there are several factors involved in a forced entry.

If there is a fire, he said, speed is the operative factor. If it is a medical call or a wellness check, he said, speed is less a factor than trying to enter a dwelling or room with minimal damage to the door.

Great Barrington Fire Chief Charlie Burger guides Sebastian Ortiz Mielke, 7, as he sprays a digital fire simulator with a water hose at an open house held
Great Barrington Fire Chief Charlie Burger guides Sebastian Ortiz Mielke, 7, as he sprays a digital fire simulator with a water hose at an open house held by the Great Barrington Fire Department. The open house included tours of the station and equipment and demonstrations of their fire fighting and rescue techniques on Saturday. (Stephanie Zollshan — The Berkshire Eagle |

"Our former deputy chief, Gary Oggiani, used to remind us always to 'try before you pry,'" said Palumbo. "We still live in a community where people don't lock their doors. There's nothing more embarrassing than breaking open a door and finding it unlocked."

Palumbo explained that "many of the techniques we use are borrowed from the department I believe is the finest in the world, FDNY."

That is an acronym for Fire Department of New York.

Burger said all of the training equipment the firefighters use is as up-to-date as possible. He also pointed out that the equipment is paid for by funds raised by the department. No tax dollars, he said, are used.

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.