The smoke crept under the door, slowly filling the air in the small bedroom. Children quickly stuffed bed sheets and towels in the door crack, hoping to clear the air before the haze got too thick. A fire alarm beeped loudly in the background.
It was all part of a simulation put on by the Navy Region Northwest Fire Emergency and Services in a trailer called E.D.I.T.H., or “exit drills in the home,” at the 35th annual National Night Out, held at Fort Nugent Park in Oak Harbor.
Hundreds of people gathered for the event which educated children and adults on crime prevention, safety and the jobs of local law enforcement and military.
At the E.D.I.T.H. trailer, Fire Inspector Cliff Foley taught young visitors and their parents how to use the back of their hand to feel whether the door was hot and how to escape out of a window when it was too hot.
“Fire is not nice. It doesn’t care what time of the day it is, whether you are awake or asleep,” Foley said. “Fire is scary and smoke will kill you.”
The best part of the National Night Out was getting to interact with the public, Fire Inspector Jeff Porter said, and he enjoyed getting to catch up with other fire and law personnel.
In opening statements, Oak Harbor Mayor Bob Severns said the event was meant to “strengthen neighborhood spirit” and “send a message to criminals that neighborhoods are organized and fighting crime.”
Other emergency response groups that attended the event included North Whidbey Fire and Rescue, the Oak Harbor Police Department, Island County Emergency Management, Oak Harbor Fire Department and the Island County Sheriff’s Department.
In addition to law enforcement, Island County Amateur Radio, the American Red Cross, Naval Criminal Investigative Services, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Island County, Island County Juvenile and Court Services, and Habitat for Humanity of Island County were some of the other groups in attendance.
Visitors agreed that this National Night Out was a well-done event.
“I like all of the resources and I love how interactive they all are,” Megan Stolle of Oak Harbor said.
Amanda Martin of Coupeville said she hadn’t been the annual event in a couple of years.
“It’s a lot better this year,” Martin said.
The Oak Harbor Police Explorers had a booth where people could try on a pair of goggles that mimicked the effect of being drunk.
For 11-year-old Devin McClellan of Oak Harbor, walking a straight line, shooting mini-basketballs into a basket and kicking a small soccer ball into a goal was no problem.
Then he tried on the goggles.
He stumbled and tripped on the line this time, uncertainly shooting baskets and missing.
“It felt weird and I didn’t feel like myself,” McClellan said.
At another station, Oak Harbor Police Department Chaplain Ron Lawler gently helped children into the “MRAP,” a bullet-proof rescue vehicle.
“They get such a kick out of climbing into here,” Lawler said.
“It takes a bit of the mystique out of law enforcement and we enjoy it too.”