Firefighters help locals stay cool

ARLINGTON — Twin Rivers Park and the Arlington Municipal Airport hosted the Arlington Fire Department’s first “Giant Water Shower” July 25-26, as area residents of all ages showed up in everything from bathing suits to shorts and T-shirts to beat the summer heat.

Arlington Fire Capt. Phil Knepper, who helped operate the ladder on the fire engine that shot out water from a hydrant at the airport at 500 gallons per minute July 26, explained that Arlington Fire Chief Jim Rankin had been inspired by his time as a firefighter in California, where such summer fire hose showers are a more common practice. Knepper noted that another goal of the two showers was to give young children a way to cool off without going into the Stillaguamish River, which can be hazardous.

“We’ve attracted about a hundred people each day,” Knepper said July 26 at the airport. “Yesterday, when we were at Twin Rivers, a soccer camp got out just as we started, so we might have had a few more that day. We chase some of the kids with the fire hose, but only the ones we know,” he laughed. “I was worried, because one really little kid was getting right under it, but she was fine. What’s really sad is, in about an hour, all this water will be gone. In spite of this huge puddle we have here now, you won’t even know we were here.”

The 30,000 gallons of water that were pumped out from 1-2 p.m. July 26 were nonetheless appreciated at the time, even as a few families found themselves unable to avoid considerable residual mists, even hundreds of feet away from the sides of the stream itself. Photographers who hoped to snap close-up shots of children at play directly under the stream had to carry umbrellas and waterproof their cameras in order to do it, while even those who hadn’t planned on getting wet soon found themselves as drenched as their children.

Arlington mothers Erika Coghill and Charlotte Michaelson both learned of the event earlier in the day on July 26. Coghill, clad in a soaked-through T-shirt and shorts, admitted that she’d underestimated the radius of the spray, while Michaelson had been trying to find a kiddie pool when “I was driving along, and I saw the water.”

Kaitlyn Toomey, on her summer break from Post Middle School, took the family dog with her under the water, even though “he doesn’t like getting wet, because he’s a chicken.” Kaitlyn broke into giggles as her mother, Candy, handed her a towel to dry off. Like Coghill and Michaelson, Candy Toomey had never even heard of such an event before, although she noted that in her former home of Walla Walla, it was common for fire hydrants to be opened for the same purpose.

Melissa Rossi not only brought two of her own children, but two of her neighbors’ children to the airport shower. Like Coghill and the Toomeys, she’d found out about it through the newspapers. Although she’s lived in a number of other climates, she’s already acclimated enough to the Pacific Northwest that she found the shower to be a welcome respite from the summer heat.

“It’s hot and the kids needed something to do,” Rossi said. “It’s better any time you can get them out of the house.”

Rossi expects her family will take a trip to Lake Goodwin within the coming week, and she pointed out how excited the children were by the fire trucks themselves, a point echoed by Arlington residents Anthony and Cheryl Kiocho.

“Our boy’s cousin, Sarah, is a firefighter in Wenatchee, so anything to do with fire trucks, he’s all over it,” said Anthony Kiocho, who brought both of his children and his wife to get out of their non-air-conditioned house. “We have a kiddie pool in our backyard, but this is excellent. Summers out here are nothing like on the East Coast, because they have humidity back there. This is a dry heat, but it’s still pretty bad. It’s one of the hottest summers I can remember.”

North Snohomish County has two air-conditioned locations that will be opened to all ages to help them beat the heat.

The Stillaguamish Senior Center, located at 18308 Smokey Point Blvd., will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, while the Arlington City Council Chambers, located at 110 E Third St., will be open from 3-5 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays. The entrance to the Chambers is located on the Olympic Avenue side of the building, adjacent to the City Hall plaza. This cooling station will have bottled water available for no charge, courtesy of the Arlington Safeway and Haggen stores.

The Arlington Fire Department will also be cooling everyone down again, with another “Giant Water Shower,” July 29 from 1-2 p.m. at Kent Prairie Elementary, located at 8110 207th St. NE.

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