HOWLAND 4th of July celebration -- with a new twist

The fire department trailer features a fire and tornado presentation.
HOWLAND -- The Fourth of July will be celebrated here with simulated tornadoes, fires and bedrooms full of smoke.
On Wednesday, the township fire department will roll out its new, $50,000 fire trailer at the Fourth of July celebration at Willow Drive and East Market Street. It will be only the second public appearance for the trailer, purchased with $44,000 of local corporate donations.
"The function of this is to teach kids hands-on what they can do about safety," said Capt. Tim Thomas, who heads up the department's fire prevention bureau. It replaces an aging, 1977 motor home the department had used to deliver lessons to 10,000 children a year.
The front of the trailer is a glassed-in sprinkler demonstration area. Firefighters can set small fires, and observers can watch from the outside as a sprinkler system puts them out.
Inside, firefighters deliver safety lessons in a simulated bedroom and kitchen. From a control both, the operator can flood either room with smoke, and a heating element in the bedroom door allows children to feel how doors heat up when a fire gets close. A fire escape leads out the window in the back.
In the kitchen, a telephone, rigged to the control room, allows children to practice calling 911. At the instructor's command, windows rattle, lighting flashes and the regularly scheduled program on television is interrupted for a newscast of a funnel cloud.
The purpose is not to scare the children, Thomas said, but to give them a lesson they will remember.
Other activities: Fourth of July in Howland also includes a car show, food, games, and parades of floats, bicycles and pets.
The day kicks off with a 5-kilometer race at 8 a.m. at Howland High School, sponsored by the Howland Kiwanis Club. The first 50 runners who register the day of the parade at the school receive a free T-shirt.
The parade starts two hours later, with floats, fire engines and the bagpipe band Celtic Flame.
Fire Chief George Brown said more than 150 units have signed up for the parade. They will be augmented by scores of children on decorated bicycles, in keeping with tradition.
Free games and entertainment for children start at 11 a.m., along with food booths from 14 nonprofit groups. The Top Notes, a band composed of band leaders from all over the county, is also scheduled to play.
Judging of the cutest, smartest, most unusual, best behaved and best dressed pets will commence at noon in the gazebo on East Market Street. A display of 100 to 150 classic automobiles, sponsored by Allied Forces Car Club, also begins at noon.
"It is a good way to spend part of your Fourth of July and still have time to spend with your family," Brown said.

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