Families trickled into the Amarillo Fire Department's Central Fire Station Friday afternoon for an open house, the first ever in the department.
"This is our very first open house for the fire department and I'm going to do one a month until we hit all 13 stations," said Jeff Justus, AFD community liaison. "We want the community to get to know us. So often, the only time that we talk to people in the community is on a call, in an emergency situation, so this gives us a great opportunity to relax, have a conversation and some cake and answer any questions people might have."
Firefighters provided tours of the Central Fire Station at 400 S. Van Buren St. along with hands-on demonstrations of a fire engine and some of the equipment the men and women use to stay safe and save lives.
Among the station's features are a large bay area for the fire trucks, a kitchen area, classroom setting and a museum.
The AFD was formerly established in 1897. In the department's history, four firemen have died in the line of duty and they are honored at the station with an in memoriam tribute - Austin Williams succumbed to fatal injuries May 7, 1936, David Loar died June 12, 1973, four days after being injured, Kenneth Caldwell died Aug. 16, 1982, nearly a month after being injured, and Brian Hunton died April 25, 2005, three days after being injured.
"This is very important. It's very impressive to see this," said Place 4 Councilman Howard Smith. "We have one of the best fire departments in the world. This fire department answers over 20,000 calls a year - not just for fires but also accidents and all kinds of things."
The AFD is on track to respond to 25,000 calls just this year.
"Our calls have really increased over the last 20 years. Medical calls have really increased and we are more highly trained to take care of those. I personally think cell phones (have contributed to the rise in calls)," Justus said. "We used to get one or two calls, now we get three, four or five calls for the same incident and we have a lot of false calls because people drive by and see steam coming out of a building and think it's a fire ... which means people are paying more attention and being more alert, so it's actually a good thing."