Open house at fire station turns to car seat and bike safety |

Open house at fire station turns to car seat and bike safety

Teya Vitu

Fire engines weren’t the only attraction Sunday at the Carson City Fire Department’s open house, though the engines made the day for three-year-old Samuel Bruketta.

“I like the big fire truck with the ladder over there,” Samuel said while he had a hand wrapped around the finger of his dad, David Bruketta.

While the Bruketta men inspected fire engines, mom Melanie Bruketta was across the street taking advantage of Kid Safe, the fire department’s inaugural child safety seat inspection event.

A constant stream of cars stopped by to have child safety seats looked over. And looked over they were.

Firefighters and volunteers crawled all over the back seats of vehicles to get seats properly installed. They spent anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour in a vehicle going through a 38-step checklist.

“So far we’ve had only one seat installed properly,” Engineer Mike McCracken said after his team inspected 12 vehicles in the first hour. Even after 20 inspections, still only one car seat passed with no problems.

That’s consistent with national statistics, which show that only 2 to 3 percent of child safety seats are installed correctly, Battalion Chief Stacey Giomi said.

Janis Viljoen, a volunteer seat inspector, said the two most common problems she was finding were seats attached too loosely and harness straps in the wrong position.

Merle Hilderbrand of Carson City had his car safety seat inspected on behalf of his 27-month-old granddaughter, Krista Hilderbrand. Viljoen told him the seat was a bit too loose and she tightened it for him.

“I thought mine was properly installed,” Hilderbrand said. “It was loose but I didn’t think it would go anywhere. When you have a grandchild’s life at stake, we wanted to have it checked.”

Michelle Olson brought in two cars seats occupied by her sons, T.J. 3-1/2, and Spencer, 1-1/2, but she said she usually has five safety seats in her car because she does child care.

“You just can’t have your kids too safe,” said Olson, who learned the shoulder straps could be tighter. “I wanted to see what I was doing wrong, although I’m doing pretty good.”

The fire department has three firefighters certified as car safety seat installers with more in training. This involves 40 hours of class time.

The Sunday inspection checked if people had the right seat for their children, if the children were seated properly, if the seat was installed correctly and whether the seat was being recalled.

“We’re so used to reacting to accidents,” McCracken said. “We want to be more preventative.”

Prevention was also the theme at the bike rodeo behind the fire station. Children learned about helmets, stop signs, avoiding obstacles on the road and being careful when they can’t see around bushes.

Carson City resident Roy Durst’s two sons, nine-year-old Nate Durst, a three-time state BMX champion, and six-year-old Nicky Durst got a refresher course on what dad had taught them about bicycle safety.

“It’s nice to have some establishment reinforce parental teachings,” Durst said.

This was the first fire station open house combining tours of the station with bicycle safety and child safety seat inspections. The event launched Fire Prevention Week, for which the theme this year is “Fire Drills: The Great Escape.”

Assistant Fire Chief Steve Mihelic said it’s the time of year now to start checking heating systems, be they fireplaces or heaters. He added that people need to have smoke alarms and an escape plan.

“You should develop a home fire drill,” Mihelic said. “You should know the way to get out and preferably have two ways. You need to have a meeting place, some way that you can account for everybody.”