WEDNESDAY, AUG. 6, 2014 — Jordan, 3, looked apprehensively at the plume of hamburger-scented smoke rising from the grill.
“Fire! Fire!” he shouted, looking up at the Portland Fire and Rescue firefighters towering behind him. “It’s hot!”
“The kid’s a natural,” said Battalion Chief Mark Kaiel. “He’s got a future.”
Firefighters with Station 2, Truck 2 on Tuesday evening were at Columbia Ridge Apartments for the Wilkes neighborhood National Night Out event, one of about 100 citywide. Since 1983, on the second Tuesday in August residents nationwide gather in their neighborhoods to demonstrate their commitment to safety and community. Law enforcement and emergency services attend events in their neighborhoods.
“This crew responds to this complex a few times a year,” Kaiel said. “It’s good for residents to see these guys outside of a crisis. And it’s good for the crew to see residents in a fun environment.”
Mayor Charlie Hales attended several National Night Out events Tuesday to talk with residents in an informal setting, sharing food, meeting kids, and hearing about the neighborhood.
“These events are a fantastic way to get people out into their neighborhoods,” Hales said. “A united neighborhood strengthens the fabric of community — critical for safety and prosperity.”
At Wilkes in East Portland, kids clamored in and out of a fire truck, handing their cellphones to firefighter Matt Fullerton to snap a photo.
In a Cully neighborhood apartment complex, Clara Vista Apartments, kids took over a police car, finding the button for the lights, the PA system, and — to the panic of police officers — the radio.
“No emergency,” Portland Police Officer Graham said into this chest radio, “just some kids.” He turned to the car: “OK, guys, time to get out.”
At the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) in far Northeast Portland, kids from widely varied backgrounds ran around the gym with bouncy balls and hula hoops, pausing for face painting or to pull a block from the giant Jenga game.
At Binford Condominium Association’s event in Northeast Portland, former State Sen. Avel Gordly chatted with the mayor and First Lady over bratwurst and fruit. Used books were out for the taking, and kids ran around the expansive yard, pausing to smack a piñata and feed a parrot.
Marigold HydroPark hosted Southwest Portland’s Markham neighborhood event. Families gathered at picnic tables full of food and kids played with enough soccer balls to keep them dashing about.
In South Burlingame Park, the band Still Kickin’ — comprised of friends who’ve been jamming for nine years — played as children explored a fire engine, snatching stickers from firefighters Shannon Ellison and Josh Clemmer.
“National Night Out celebrates neighborhood safety and unity,” Hales said. “Look around — it’s working. People are having fun, hanging out. What a great, worthwhile event.”