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July 25, 2017
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Breakfast and safety tips at annual Penngrove pancake breakfast

  • Four-year-old Evan Green, who dressed for the occasion, is seen holding the Jaws of Life at the Penngrove Fireman's Pancake breakfast July 1st. Photo by Robert Grant

By: Katherine Minkiewicz and Grant Wetmore
July 7, 2017

The warm buttery scent of pancakes wafted through the air at the Rancho Adobe Penngrove Fire Station Saturday morning, where the station held its 41st annual “pancake breakfast,” and served up hot breakfast, as well as conducting a car extrication and fire safety demonstration.

Off duty firefighters volunteered their time to start the pancake preparations around 5 a.m., where they mixed the batter in a gargantuan caldron looking pot with a power drill mixer in the back of the firehouse kitchen, according to station firefighter Andy Taylor.

Taylor, who has been a firefighter and has volunteered at the breakfasts for almost 30 years, said they expected to make around 1,500 pancakes throughout the morning and that proceeds from the breakfast will go towards new equipment.

“It goes to support the Rancho Adobe Fire Fighter’s Association to buy equipment for the district, like defibrillators,” Taylor said.

The breakfast was held in the station garage, where they had the fire trucks out in the driveway for display. By around 8:30 a.m. the line for the breakfast snaked around the station driveway, where they also displayed raffle prizes and fire department T-Shirts for sale.

Dawn Davis, who has been volunteering her time to work at the breakfasts for 12 years, said the T-Shirts sales in addition with the breakfast proceeds, will help raise money for needed equipment. However, she pointed out that it is also rewarding to be able to see people from the community.

   “People love supporting them (the fire station) and it is a good opportunity to get a good quality meal, buy some shirts and participate in the raffle, but for me, talking with the community and letting them know what we do and answering their questions is great, I enjoy talking to the public,” Davis said.

   Along with buttermilk pancakes, eggs, ham, watermelon, milk and coffee were also served up.

Emily Rasmussen, a recent high school graduate from Rohnert Park who went with a friend, said she was satisfied with the pancakes and would even consider going back for seconds.

 “Yes, I am happy with the pancakes. This is my first year going and I am considering becoming a firefighter, so anything to do with firefighters I like to go, so this was interesting,” Rasmussen said.

Union president of the fire department association and acting captain, Jimmy Bernil, said his favorite part of the annual breakfasts are being able to have an open house and interact with the community they serve.

   “My favorite part is the meet and greet and getting to see the people we serve, because we only see them on call for a few minutes, so here, we get to see and interact with them longer,” Bernil said of the event.

 Towards the nine o’clock hour, firefighters started the car extrication demonstration to show attendees how the station responds to accidents where the Jaws of Life must be used in order to get a trapped person out of a wrecked car.

During the demonstration, firefighters used the Jaws of Life to cut an overturned car open while Battalion Chief Herb Wandel explained the steps used in the process. Wandel explained that during an extrication, firefighters are constantly communicating with each other while they assess the situation and perform their individual tasks. 

To perform the extrication, firefighters first used struts to stabilize the car so that it does not flip over while they are working. They then used the Jaws of Life to cut the metal connecting the roof to the body of the car. After making relief cuts on top of the car, they peeled open the roof and removed a mannequin from the driver seat. The entire process was completed in under ten minutes. 

Wandal explained that the most important thing to do while driving is to pay attention and to not use your phone.

“The part we are showing is the aftermath, “Wandal said. “We rather not see that”. 

At 10 a.m., the firefighters put on a fire demonstration to show how quickly a fire could spread inside a house. For the demonstration, two nearly identical burn rooms were set up in open shipping containers. One was equipped with a sprinkler system and the other was not. The purpose of the demonstration was to show how quickly and effectively sprinklers can suppress a fire.

The firefighters started the demonstration by using a flare to ignite the couch in the room with the sprinklers as onlookers watched from a safe distance. In a matter of minutes, the couch went up in flames and the container began to fill up with smoke. Before the fire got too big, however, the sprinklers went off and quickly doused the flame. 

After firefighters in full gear completely extinguished the first room with a fire hose, they ignited the couch in the room without sprinklers. This fire was allowed to burn longer which caused the couch to be completely engulfed in fire and the top of the container to be filled with thick black smoke. When the firefighters extinguished the blaze, the room filled with steam and smoke before drifting towards the crowd of spectators.

Throughout the demonstration, Wandel explained how fires work and how firefighters put them out. He also gave safety tips of what to do in case of fires such as utilizing smoke alarms, crawling underneath the smoke and having a meeting place outside the house. 

“People need to start heading out as soon a fire is discovered,” Wandel said.