The Brownwood Fire Department hosted hundreds of visitors of all ages as part of its open house Saturday.

The Brownwood Fire Department, along with more than 10 other area first responders groups, treated visitors to a variety of demonstrations from aerial rescues to car extrications as part of the event, which Fire Chief Ed Wood believes builds familiarity with the community.

“[Firefighters] all want to see each other before the incident. We want to train together and get to know each other,” Wood said. “It’s the same thing with the community. I want to meet the community before we have an emergency. It would be a lot nicer at 2 a.m. when you walk through and they say ‘Oh, I know you. I saw you at the open house or fire prevention at my school this year.’ We did about fire prevention in the schools and met about 4,500 kids in school this year. That is a lot of contact and a lot of faces that have seen our guys. We want to see you before the incident. It helps out and makes things a little easier.”

Visitors to the open house saw a variety of services the fire department performs. Fire Marshal Buddy Marshal ran arson dog Nika through a few exercises to teach accelerant detection. Rookie Brownwood Firefighter Brett Sawyer manned the Jaws of Life to demonstrate how to extricate a trapped person from a car and, inside the fire house, BFD firefighters Trent Thompson and Phillip Foix showed attendees how the department performs rescues in high areas. Saturday’s event was the first of its kind in Brownwood and Wood hopes it showcases the skills and sacrifices of area firefighters.

“We call it all hazards response. That means we respond to fires, but that can be house fires, car fires, dumpster fires, grass fires,” Wood said. “We respond to major accidents. We have to do extrication to cut people out of cars. We have to do high-angle rescues, swift-water rescues, hazardous materials. There is a wide variety of what we do. The old fire service just went to fires and that was it.”

While many of the attendees came over from the Howard Payne University Homecoming Parade, many decided to attend because they had a family member that is a first responder. Although the primary purpose is to educate the community on what firefighters do, it’s secondary purpose is to put a child or close relative of a first responder at ease because they now know what their loved ones do, how they do it and all of the precautions that go into day-to-day activities that insure they come home after their shift.

“I’m married to a firefighter. It’s very important,” said Kara Thompson, the wife of firefighter Trent Thompson, who brought her daughter to the open house. They hear this stories, but this way she can see the tools and get to see him do things like repelling and see the guys use the jaws of life. She’s enjoying it. I know my son is really enjoying it. He’s still watching the guys on the car.”