DIXFIELD — During the Dixfield Fire
Co.
‘s first ever open house on Saturday, Samuel Benson of Dixfield
was right where he’d always wanted to be since the age of 2: sitting
in the driver’s seat of a real fire engine.

Dressed in his firefighter rain gear —
complete with a helmet and rubber galoshes that his grandmother Karen
Footman of Greene bought him — the 4-year-old beamed broadly back
at his mom.

“This is just going to make his day,”
Patricia Benson said. “I will never hear the end of
it.”

Samuel was one of more than 100
children accompanied by several adults who attended the event between 10
a.m. and 2 p.m. to learn about fire safety, Lt. Jason Hyde said.

“It was amazing,” Hyde said.
“Honestly, we were hoping for 10 people in all, so we ran out of
food at noon.”

By 12:30 p.m., firefighters had also
given out 105 free firefighter helmets to children.

The event was timed to happen at the
end of National Fire Prevention week.

Hyde said the volunteer department
didn’t get to host a fire prevention program in the town’s schools,
so they held it at the fire station.

They did, however, hold a coloring
contest at Dirigo Elementary School. Then, at the open house, they
awarded prizes for best in each grade, from pre-kindergarten through
five. There were seven winners.

The open house was also the company’s
way to give back to the community.

“We wanted to get the community
involved, to see what we do, because they’re the taxpayers and we
wanted them to see what they are paying for,” Hyde said. “We also
wanted to get the children involved.”

“The big hit today was our gear
station, where the kids get to put our gear on and we take pictures
of them,” he said. “They loved that. Seeing all of the kids was
the payoff today.”

Additionally, another young-crowd
pleaser was the Teddy Bear and Doll Clinic, in which nurses from
Elsemore Dixfield Family Medicine “diagnosed” illnesses or
injuries to children’s dolls and teddy bears.

“The nurses bandaged them up and put
signs on (the dolls), prescribing lots of hugs and kisses,” Hyde
said.

The company, which has served Dixfield
since 1893, currently has 23 volunteer firefighters, auxiliary
members and junior firefighters.

Samuel Benson would like to boost that
number to 24 when he grows up rather than become a police officer
like his dad, Mexico Patrolman Dean Benson, Patricia Benson said.

“This is the future firefighter in
our family,” she said. “Every time a firetruck goes by, he’s in
the window yelling, ‘Firetruck, mommy! Firetruck!’”

She said her son has been learning about fire
prevention all week by watching television. She’s also read a book
about firefighting to him every night before bedtime.

Children and their parents toured the
station, learned how to use fire extinguishers, and met Sparky the
Fire Dog from the neighboring Mexico Fire Department and Smokey the Bear
from the Maine Forest Service.

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Garbed in his firefighter outfit, 4-year-old Samuel Benson of Dixfield smiles back at mom Patricia Benson after Dixfield Fire Co. junior firefighter Cassie Moretto helped the youngster into the driver’s seat of Engine No. 3 during Saturday’s four-hour, first-ever Open House.

From within a Dixfield firetruck on at Saturday’s Dixfield Fire Co. Open House, 4-year-old Samuel Benson of Dixfield watches firefighters help other children into the truck to learn what it’s like to be a firefighter. The youngster longs to be a firefighter when he grows up, says mom Patricia Benson.

At Saturday’s Open House, Dixfield Fire Co. junior firefighter Cassie Moretto, left, and Lt. Jason Hyde try to find 4-year-old Samuel Benson’s hands after the youngster asked to wear Hyde’s real firefighter jacket and helmet and wanted the sleeves scrunched up so he could see his hands. Getting to wear real firefighters gear was a big hit with more than 100 participating children.

Three of the seven winners of the Dixfield Fire Co. coloring contest at Dirigo Elementary School in Dixfield, also participated in the company’s first ever Open House on Saturday. In front from left are Taylor Bryant, first grade; Carly Welch, fourth grade; and Nicole Welch, fifth grade. In back are Chief Scott Dennett, Lt. Jason Hyde, who organized the Open House, and Sparky the Fire Dog from the Mexico Fire Department.


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