Freddy D’Largo is one of the fire hose mannequins on sale in support of Largo Explorers and the Children’s Burn Foundation.
LARGO – Little Freddy D’Largo and his fellow fire hose mannequins are on a mission.
The kid-sized mannequins, designed and built by Largo firefighters, help teams in fire and rescue training, saving money on the purchase of expensive mannequins. The idea came to the A crew of Station 42, at Belcher Road and East Bay Drive, about a year ago, explained Lt. Warren Cargill.
“I mentioned it to the guys that we were just going to throw the hose away,” Cargill said. “They asked, ‘Do we have any purpose for this?’”
The hose, folded into a starfish shape and dressed with some clothes firefighters’ children had outgrown, mimics the weight and shape of a real child enough to be used in various training scenarios.
“I try to implement them every time we train,” Cargill said. “Whenever we’re using victims, we use them.”
Left out in the sun, the mannequins will absorb heat enough to show up on thermal imaging cameras firefighters use to search out bodies in a smoky building.
“When you go into zero visibility, it’s easier to find an adult than a child. Unfortunately, children tend to hide from us; they’re afraid,” Cargill said.
The “fire-hose kids” can stand in for purchased mannequins, saving the department thousands of dollars. The two mannequins firefighters built initially have held up in more extreme training. The firefighters at Station 42 serve as Largo’s technical response team, helping in more difficult scenarios where the victim needs rescue from a trench, at a high angle, from swift water, a structural collapse or a confined space.
“They’re great – we throw them under cars and buses,” Cargill said. “They’ve been thrown in a trench, buried in dirt, thrown in the Intracoastal for search and rescue in the water. They’ve been around quite a bit.”
Recently, the business owners of Largo’s West Bay Redevelopment district got wind of the idea. Tanya Pistillo of the Wandering Star Art Gallery thought the idea of repurposing fire hose was “really crafty.”
“There’s not a lot of funding going around for a lot of things so I stepped in and asked if there was some way, I could help them raise money,” she said.
Along with creating and selling art from the recycled fire hose, Pistillo suggested the firefighters make more hose kids and put them up for “adoption” as a way of raising money for the fire department’s public education fund.
The firefighters of Station 42 have made five more mannequins to be auctioned off during a reception on Saturday, Nov. 9, 6 to 10 p.m., at the Wandering Star Art Gallery, 220 West Bay Drive.
The reception, a partnership with the Downtown Largo Merchants Association and the Largo Professional Firefighters Local 2427, will feature all firefighter-related art. The proceeds will be split to benefit both the Largo Fire Explorers program and the Children’s Burn Foundation.
“I’m kind of proud of my crew for coming up with this idea. It’s pretty useful for us,” Cargill said. “Hopefully it’ll take off, with the fundraiser too.”
Cargill said that the hose kids are not toys.
“They’re safe, but we just want to make sure that the kids don’t get a hold of them and play,” he said.
He voiced enthusiasm for the union’s new partner.
“I’m looking forward to doing more with the downtown business district. I think it’s long overdue,” he said.
The Nov. 9 reception will be held after the a Community Festival at Ulmer Park, held second Saturdays starting this month.
The first community festival, organized by the Downtown Largo Merchants Association, will be Saturday, Oct. 12, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Ulmer Park, 301 W. Bay Drive. The event will feature live music, food trucks, arts and crafts, games, face painting and raffle prizes. Call Tanya Pistillo at 465-8558.