Eight-year-old Mateo Garcia tries on police vest. "It's heavy!," he pronounced.

Little kids climbing on big fire trucks. Or putting on police protective equipment. Or watching fire fighters show how they cut into a car to rescue someone who is trapped.

Firefighter removes windshield from car during rescue demonstration.

Those were among the many activities at Evanston’s First Responder Open House on Sunday afternoon, in front of Fire Department Headquarters on Lake Street.

Demonstration flight of Evanston Police Department drone.

For parents (and grandparents), it was a chance for their children to get a positive message about who shows up after somone calls 9-1-1.

Kids “need to see that police officers and fire fighters are their friends,” said Claudia Wenzel, who brought her two grandchildren to the event.

Evelyn and Alastor Wenzel at First Responder Open House.

“It’s very cool,” said granddaughter Evelyn Wenzel. “Alastor likes it a lot,” she said of her three-year-old brother.

The Open House was also an opportunity for the police and fire departments to pass out safety brochures, and say hello to those who they may need to assist some day.

“We want to build partnerships,” said Fire Department Division Chief Kimberly Kull.

“Our goal is to establish that relationship” with the public, Kull added. Fire Department flyers included helpful information on preparing an emergency planning list, tornado safety tips, and even suggestions on how to keep your pets safe in case of a fire or weather disaster.

And while not every kid wants to grow up to be firefighter or police officer, a lot of them do have the interest. And public safety jobs often run in families.

Three-and-a-half-year-old Dwight Bratholt, Jr. sat in his mom Sarah’s lap as they watched firefighters cut apart a car as part of an extrication drill.

Sarah Bratholt and her son Dwight, Jr., a potential future fire fighter.

Sarah’s dad was a volunteer firefighter in North Dakota.

And maybe, just maybe, Dwight, Jr. will follow in grandpa’s foosteps … or rather, bootsteps.

The little boy, mom said, “already has four fire engines at home.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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