Lee firemen inspire kids

Sunday July 22, 2012

LEE -- Bill DeFreest remembers being the kind of youngster who couldn't take his eyes off a fire truck whenever he saw one.

"I was fascinated as a kid, and now, here I am," said DeFreest, an assistant fire chief for the Lee Fire Dep artment who is serving in his 39th year with the squad.

On Saturday morning, he and three other members of the fire department volunteered to bring a fire truck to the parking lot of Lee Library to teach children about their work, and show off the bells and engines that go with it.

" ‘Do you have any books on fire trucks?' is one of the most frequently asked questions from children here at the Lee Library," said public services librarian Rosemarie Borsody, explaining why the library hosted the event.

For some children, however, the fire truck's loud sirens and firefighters' masked faces can be frightening, DeFreest said.

"Our goal here, especially with the little ones, is to teach them about not being afraid of firefighters in full gear, so that if they're in an emergency and see a firefighter, they'll know he's the good guy and to go to him," DeFreest said.

A couple dozen toddlers, teenagers and parents wandered by as DeFreest made introductions. Fellow firefighters Joseph Carlotto, Patrick Guinan and Zachary Sorrentino donned full turnout gear to demonstrate how a firefighter dresses. They also took turns hoisting children into the truck to sit and survey its equipment.

"Some of them were a little skittish," Carlotto said.

With a little bit of hand-holding, Carter Tyer, 3 (almost 4), got up the courage to ring a bell on the front of Engine 1.

Emma Adelson, 7, said seeing a fire truck at the library was a strange sight.

"My sister and I came to the library to get a book," Emma said, "but it was neat. I had never been on a fire truck before."

The assistant chief, Carl otto and Sorrentino all had fathers who were firefighters. They said they were introduced to the job at a young age and were eager to sign up themselves. Despite having their own firefighters' picnic Saturday, the men said they were happy to make the stop.

Guinan said it's part of the reason he wanted to be a firefighter.

"I just wanted to give back to the community that gave me so much," he said.


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