A group of Colchester Rescue members are pictured in front of an ambulance. Back row, L to R: Shelby Evans, Chief Amy Akerlind, Megan Severance, Libby Elder-Connors, Merrill Pine, Connor Poulin, Dave Cohen and Kat Ioannou. Front row, L to R: David Weiss and Clayton Cameron. (Photo by Kaylee Sullivan)

Colchester kids and parents alike channeled their inner child as they climbed into fire trucks and ambulances at Colchester Rescue’s open house last Wednesday, May 24.

The annual event, held during national Emergency Medical Services Week, is an opportunity for community members and personnel to meet in a low stress environment, allowing families to put a face to the sirens they hear around town, rescue Chief Amy Akerlind explained.

Parent Moira Plant assented as her 5-year-old daughter, Kate, jumped from a Colchester Center fire truck into her arms.

“It makes them more comfortable with people that work in the rescue field,” Plant said as her 2-year-old son, Chase, puttered around within the vehicle. “And it gives them a chance to see the inside of what they always see whizzing by their house.”

Members of the Colchester Technical Rescue squad, Colchester Police Department and Malletts Bay Fire Department were also present.

For Kate, the most notable part of the two-hour-long event was “seeing the dog.”

Anders (left) and Lincoln Rush (center) of Colchester check out the inside of an ambulance with Colchester Rescue volunteer Libby Elder-Connors. (Photo by Michaela Halnon)

With CPD K9 Tazor out with a knee injury, his four-legged friend, Wes, filled in and gripped the crowd’s attention with a drug tracking demonstration.

Cpl. Dave Dewey pulled into the rescue station’s parking lot trailed by Deputy Benjamin Chiaravalle from the Chittenden County Sherriff’s Department.

His lights flashing, Chiaravalle suspiciously stepped out of his vehicle and up to Dewey’s window. After some back-and-forth questioning, Wes was released from the cruiser and circled Dewey’s car, eventually uncovering a package of cocaine.

After a short applause, Dewey and Chiaravalle explained how tracking works and what the related training entails.

“[Wes] loves his drugs, that’s for sure,” Chiaravalle said to a laughing crowd.

Post-demonstration, parents and their young ones flocked to the officer and his furry pal to learn more. Others hopped into an ambulance, getting an up close look of a gurney while sitting alongside rescue members.

Akerlind described the vehicle as a mini emergency room and said the experience allows kids to see the equipment used, in case they are ever taken to the hospital.

Kate Plant, 5, enjoys the view from inside a Colchester Center fire truck last week. (Photo by Kaylee Sullivan)

“It definitely helps them,” Akerlind said. “If we have to transport them, it’s not the big scary truck.”

The chief said the gathering also celebrated crewmembers, the majority of whom are volunteers. The department has five full-time employees, around 40 volunteers and a handful of per diem members, she said.

Behind the rescue station is Colchester Technical Rescue’s headquarters. Staffers there shared a similar outlook on the night’s activities.

“It’s nice to know a friendly face in an emergency,” member Mike Akerlind said.

The open house is a good chance to meet members and find out what their job involves in a non-crisis situation, he said. Both departments work closely together, he added.

As attendees ate hot dogs from the grill, they walked around visiting the various booths advocating safety.

Inside the rescue station, a “Live Phat” representative handed out stickers and flyers to persuade folks to wear bike and ski helmets. Certified inspectors were posted outside the police department to conduct car seat inspections.

Rescue also advertised its open volunteer positions and provided order forms for reflective address signs for residential mailboxes and houses.

Akerlind said Colchester homes are well marked for the most part, but the reflectors help emergency responders recognize their destination quicker. The white-and-green placards are covered in prismatic sheeting.

Callum Maynard takes his turn in the driver’s seat of a Malletts Bay Fire Department truck last week. (Photo by Kaylee Sullivan)

The reflectors are free, but donations are welcome. As of last Wednesday, donations ranged from $5 to $35, and around 50 orders were collected. Residents can order them on the department’s website, Akerlind said.

Many other communities have the same program, she added.

Continuing EMS week, rescue members were slated to visit a few Colchester schools last week, Akerlind said as kids continued to zoom around her.

“It’s nice to get the community here and interact with them,” she said.