One hot time: Dover PAL participants learn from first responders

Ryan Delgadillo, 7, points a fire hose toward a target during ‘A Day In Their Boots’ event with Dover Police Athletic League at the Delaware Fire School on Wednesday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — The wide eyes and questions that came from the minds of the 150 or so participants at the Delaware State Fire School Louis J. Amabili Fire Service Training Center on Wednesday showed they were extremely interested to spend “A Day in Their Boots.”

The youth activity was organized by the Dover Police Department Police Athletic League to show the youngsters the variety of the challenges that first responders such as the volunteer members of the Dover Fire Department face every day of the year.

Anthony (C.J.) Smith, who recently took over as coordinator of the Dover Police Athletic League, was overwhelmed at the interest that the day with Dover’s heroes was able to generate.

“Some events may take a month or two months to fill up, this event took 15 hours to fill up,” said Mr. Smith, a Patrolman First Class with the Dover Police Department.

Ava Gedney, 10, gets help putting out a hay fire from fire school instructor Terry Jester during ‘A Day In Their Boots’ event.

Patrolman First Class Smith originally had said that a minimum of 30 participants was required for the program to take place, so he wasn’t disappointed when he had to order even more lunches from event sponsor North Dover Chick-Fil-A, which donated the meals.

“The biggest thing for (Wednesday) for the Police Athletic League and for the Delaware Fire School and Dover Fire was to have all the kids come out and see ‘A Day in Their Boots,’” said Patrolman Smith. “What that pretty much references is seeing how it is to be a first responder, especially as a firefighter, to see what they go through in regards to fire safety, understanding the curriculum of the education of the fire and everything in that aspect.

“We can have the youth start young and understand what it is they may aspire to be whenever they get older and the Police Athletic League allows that to happen. We allow them to dream with their eyes open and that’s the biggest thing.”

Wednesday’s event had all the children broken down into six groups — three for ages 9-years-old and younger and the other three for 10 through 18 years of age.

Following a brief welcome from event officials, each group was able to disperse to one of six stations that specialized in different types of training and activities. Each group stayed at one station for 25 minutes before moving on to the next one.

For the older participants, the stations were broken down into: vehicle rescue, structural firefighting, EMT, obstacle course, drones and fire behavior.

The younger attendees’ schedule was slightly different, and a little shorter, as they learned about: fire behavior, hazard house, escape planning and visited static displays of emergency equipment.

Samoz Briddell, 11, carries a hose down a flight of steps.

The event’s hosts provided plenty of bottled water and had misting tents prepared so the PAL participants stayed cool and hydrated on the day in which the temperature reached the upper 80s.

Chad Knotts, 20, a Probationary Firefighter with the Dover Fire Department, joined a couple of his fellow firemen in showing how they go about using hydraulic rescue tools to help free a trapped person from a crashed vehicle.

They noted that while Dover does have more than 100 volunteer firefighters, only around 20 or so of them are usually ready to respond at one given time due to other obligations such as jobs and family.

Mr. Knotts’ face was bright red as he was wearing his heavy firefighting coat while cutting the doors off an SUV in the heat of July.
The third-generation firefighter said he was just happy to show the participants some of the things that volunteer firemen do.

“It’s a great opportunity to get the kids involved and show them what we do as volunteers and maybe get them interested in joining the fire company or becoming a police officer or paramedic, or whatever have you, when they get older,” Mr. Knotts said. “It’s just an adrenaline rush. It’s something you can’t help, it’s just an addiction. You never know what’s going to happen when you serve as a volunteer firefighter.”

The structural firefighting station was among the most popular because the participants got a chance to work together to pull a heavy fire hose up to the door of a training station designed as a small house and extinguish a fire.

“It’s pretty cool,” said Alexis Steele, a PAL participant from Clayton. “It was fun getting the chance to put out a fire but I’m really looking forward to the obstacle course.”

Jennifer Carey, of Camden, arrived at the event early with 5-year-old son Paul Reed in tow to check out the Delaware State Police helicopter that landed in the back of the fire school around 9 a.m.

It was a precursor to an eventful day as they were able to ask Delaware State Police Cpl. Brett Creasey, pilot of the Bell 429 helicopter, and Cpl. T.J. Aube, flight medic, questions about their experiences.

Brianna Durham, 10, carries a dummy as big as herself during ‘A Day In Their Boots’ event with Dover Police Athletic League.

“It’s great,” Ms. Carey said. “It’s exciting that they do stuff for children and to get then excited about emergency services. Paul’s (grandfather) is a police officer and his aunt and uncle are with the corrections and I’m a nurse, so this should be really fun for him.”
Dover Mayor Robin R. Christiansen, a long-time member of the Dover Fire Department, was proud that the Dover PAL took the opportunity to salute the city’s first responders.

“I think it’s long overdue,” Mayor Christiansen said. “I think it’s a great event and we’re going to see a lot of young people that
are going to be inspired, first-off to know the police and firefighters in their community are their friends and they’re not the enemy, we’re here to help.

“Hopefully, it inspires some of them that when they get old enough they can take my place at the fire department and some of these officers who are now on the street will be retired and just generate a confidence in the community, and all of our citizens, in our emergency personnel.”

A busy summer for Dover PAL

The Dover Police Athletic League is having its busier summer yet, with several community-outreach events scheduled that include 3-on-3 basketball, as well as other games and fun for all ages.

Mayor Christiansen said it’s great to see these kinds of activities take flight in the city of Dover.

“I think it’s terrific and I think we can look for bigger and better events from PAL because PAL’s community-oriented,” the mayor said. “(Dover Police) Chief Marvin Mailey and myself have refocused the Dover Police Department toward community policing and part of that community policing is interacting with the citizens that we serve.

“So, I think it’s going to be a great move for everybody.”

The community-outreach events are part of the “drop-in” series scheduled at various locations throughout Dover to educate families about PAL opportunities while engaging with officers and members of the community in athletic and educational activities for all ages.

The community-outreach events will take place from 10 a.m. until noon.

There will be a PAL drop-in community-outreach event on Friday at Dover Park at 1210 White Oak Road, another on July 20 at Mayfair Park at 180 Blue Beach Drive and one more on July 27 at Schutte Park at 10 Electric Avenue.

Dover PAL Coordinator Smith credits his support staff with helping him in his new role after Master Cpl. Keith Hester stepped down from the position earlier this year.

“They’re definitely big shoes to fill and (Master Cpl. Hester is) a guy that can coach me with a lot of things in starting out in the program,” Mr. Smith said. “The support staff with my chain of command has been awesome and phenomenal with the way they’ve been helping with the transition.”

PAL, DSU team up for football combine

The Dover PAL has partnered with the Delaware State University and the DSU Police Department to put on a one-day football combine that will be held at the university’s athletic complex.

The program is scheduled for Saturday, July 28th, from 8 a.m. until noon. Snacks, Gatorade and water will be provided courtesy of event sponsors Sam’s Club and The Home Depot.

The program is open to fifth through eighth grade students of all skill levels. There will be multiple skills competitions with prizes awarded.

Registration is required for the event. A minimum of 25 participants must register by the July 20th deadline. A maximum of 50 participants will be accepted.

All participants must complete a liability waiver and a PAL registration form in addition to the event registration. Event registration can be found at

Athletic attire must be worn. Football cleats are not required but are highly recommended. There is no rain date for this event and transportation is not provided.

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