BRECKENRIDGE - It's 4:30 p.m. and there's chaos inside the Red, White and Blue Fire Department. But the little firehouse on Main Street in Breckenridge isn't buzzing with firefighters trying to get out to a call. It's filled with little kids rounding the safety stations to collect treats and stamps in their "Passports to Safety." The annual Red, White and Blue community open house, a family safety and outreach event that is part of Fire Prevention Week, attracted approximately 450 people to the fire station Wednesday afternoon, one of the best turnouts the department has ever seen for the event. "The doors open and there's just a flood of people," Red, White and Blue spokesman Drew Hoehn said. "That's really important to us, it means that we're being really effective in our message." The open house is designed for kids, with games, activities and sweets available at each of a series of stations to help drive home the messages about gun and fire safety, emergency preparedness, calling 911, wearing helmets, distracted driving and others. Officials say they hope by reaching kids with targeted safety messages, the information will trickle up to the whole family. "This is a wonderful opportunity for the community to see what is offered to them," Breckenridge Town Councilman Gary Gallagher said. "It all starts with our children. If children get educated, it educates the parents." The open house also includes a hot dinner - this year the menu included chili, corn bread and hot dogs - prepared and served up by firefighters and visits and demonstrations by service dogs. The centerpiece of the event was the smoke trailer, a simulation exercise that allows children to crawl through a life-sized recreational vehicle to experience the sensation of navigating a smoke-filled house first hand and put their safety techniques to work. The trailer highlighted the key message of this year's open house: have two ways out. Firefighters told community members who attended the event to determine two exit routes from their homes in case one gets blocked during a fire or other emergency and encouraged families to determine an outside meeting point. The open house is offered in conjunction with classes and outreach at local schools as part of Fire Prevention Week. For families, one of the best parts of the event is "just the adventure of going from table to table and learning stuff," said Bethanny Crouse, a local resident who attends the open house every year with her two kids. "Everything that they're learning is so important."Crouse's daughter, Lilah, said her favorite activity was the brain station, where kids got to feel how soft the human brain is and learn the different centers of the brain with a bean-bag toss. But at the heart of the fun was an important lesson. "I liked feeling the brain," said Lilah, 8. "I learned that you always have to wear a helmet, because your brain is so squishy." Fire Prevention Week commemorates the Great Chicago Fire the week of Oct. 9.
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