Firefighters benefit from fund-raiser

Posted Wednesday, Apr. 24, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
More information Boots & Bistro 5-9 p.m. Thursday Aristide Event Center 570 N. Walnut Creek Drive $20 in advance at; $25 at the door

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When firefighters run through a burning house, keeping doors propped open can be critical to preserving a safe exit. So at Mansfield fire stations, the crews hand-craft their own wooden shims.

But people like Mike Frazier believe the city’s firefighters deserve better – like store-bought door chocks. And extra defibrillators. And thermal imaging cameras. And anything else that would benefit fire and rescue operations but aren’t budget priorities.

Frazier is president of the Mansfield Citizens Fire Academy Alumni Association, which is ramping up for its second annual Boots & Bistro on Thursday, a music and food-sampling fund-raiser aimed at making firefighter wishes come true.

“We’ve actually asked some of the guys at the stations – what would make them feel a little safer, and make their job a little easier in search and rescue,” Fraser said.

To do that, the 18-member alumni association knows it has to pull off a bigger and better event than last year's inaugural effort, which barely broke even. Frazier said the improvements this year are clear.

At least 20 restaurants are participating in the Taste of Mansfield-style dining format Thursday at the Aristide Event Center, compared with 12 restaurants last year. Food tastings are free, plus there will be a cash bar.

The increase in restaurants is partly due to the decision to hold this year’s Boots & Bistro on Thursday instead of Friday, a day too busy for many restaurants to participate. Friday last year pitted the event against heavy weekend competition.

The “Boots” in the name refers to the musical entertainment – two country bands playing at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at Aristide, 570 N. Walnut Creek Drive.

And this year’s event has a new feature, a silent auction.

“It started off as a small raffle, but we had so many people around town saying ‘I want to donate this and donate that,’” Fraser said, noting a number of big ticket donations, including a one-year supply of Blue Bell ice cream, a year of massages, $500 leather recliner and a personalized living will valued at $550.

“It's going to be the icing on the cake,” he added.

Also planned is a visit by the Remembrance Rescue Project, a group of volunteering firefighters who will bring a New York Fire Department fire truck that lost its entire eight-member crew in the 9/11 attacks. Although damaged, it was the only operational fire truck in New York immediately after the World Trade Center buildings collapsed.

The traveling exhibit currently is hosted by the Grapevine Fire Department.

Frazier hopes the Boots & Bistro raises $10,000 to $15,000 – and so does Fire Chief Barry Bondurant, who would like to better equip his back-up vehicles.

“That way we can have the same equipment on our reserve apparatus as we do on our first-out trucks,” he said.

Necessities are covered in the budget, but the department used to be more dependent on the charity of its community, Bondurant said.

“Years ago, when Mansfield was a volunteer department, we had a ladies auxiliary,” he said. “They would go out and have fish fries or bake sales (to raise funds). When we became a paid department, that kind of died off.”

The fire department established the Citizens Fire Academy in 2004 to give Mansfield residents a taste of fire operations during a 36-hour course over 12 weeks each spring. Its alumni association was created the next year with the mission to support the the fire department any way it can, serving refreshments to firefighters at fire and accident scenes, helping CPR instructors and showing fire trucks and gear and at fire station open house events.

“I think it’s outstanding,” Bondurant said. “Those guys are nothing but supportive to us. They just want to come out and help us.”

Robert Cadwallader, 817-390-7641 Twitter: @Kaddmann

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