Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Families practice fire prevention during Evanston Fire Department event

Shun Graves/The Daily Northwestern
Attendees watch as the Evanston Fire Department demonstrates a fire in a room without sprinklers near headquarters in downtown Evanston, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023.

Evanston Fire Department’s fire prevention open house on Saturday gave dozens of families a chance to meet local firefighters.

For Lake Forest resident Gisella Stefani, that meant seeing her grandson — EFD firefighter Niko Stefani — at work. 

“I’m very proud of him,” Gisella Stefani said. “He loves doing it, so that’s what counts.”

Held in advance of National Fire Prevention Week, the open house at the EFD headquarters in downtown Evanston offered residents a window into firefighting. Families, many with small children, watched as firefighters demonstrated rescue procedures and showed the crowd how to use equipment like fire extinguishers and sprinkler systems.

Estimates from the U.S. Fire Administration show that residential fires in the U.S. killed 2,840 people in 2021, and fire prevention bureau Capt. John Roche said awareness is largely lacking.

“Most people don’t hear about it because … it doesn’t happen in your hometown,” he said. “Somebody that dies in Galesburg, (Illinois), one person, that’s not going to show up on the radar in the Chicagoland area.”

When fires do happen in Evanston, Roche added, investigators often find homes did not have adequate fire prevention measures, including smoke detectors. Devices sometimes haven’t been activated.

Saturday’s event also included interactive activities. Department officials sparked a fire in a container, and attendees volunteered to douse it quickly with an extinguisher. In another demonstration, Roche showed how to contain a cooktop fire: Smother the pan, but don’t throw water at it.

A side-by-side showcase of how sprinkler systems can put out a fire concluded the demonstrations. Division Chief Kimberly Kull said the demo could help people “really make critical decisions when seconds count.”

Officials from other agencies, including the Evanston Police Department and the Chicago Transit Authority, operated stands at the open house. The majority of U.S. service calls do not involve fires, so Saturday’s open house served to promote general safety awareness, Kull added.

Though Saturday’s open house focused on fire prevention, EFD’s outreach programs extended beyond this issue. On Oct. 14, the fire department will host an emergency preparedness fair at Evanston Township High School that will include sessions on CPR training, first aid, online security and more.

At EFD headquarters on Saturday, 3-year-old William Miller peeked out of a fire truck’s cab. Wearing a plastic firefighter helmet, the Evanston resident said he wants to be a firefighter when he grows up.

Niko Stefani has achieved that dream. Saturday marked the end of his first week working with EFD as a probationary firefighter, he said.

“I started out doing the explorer program when I was 14 here in Evanston,” Stefani said. “This has always been my dream fire department to work for. Lucky to get the opportunity to come to work here.”

Stefani’s first week mostly involved administrative training, but he will start working shifts within the next couple weeks, he said. With his family watching him work the crowds on Saturday, Stefani said he hoped they were proud.

“They like to come out and visit and support me,” he said.

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @realShunGraves

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