Columbia firefighters to hold Halloween open house

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COLUMBIA - Fire Station 9 will be hosting a Halloween open house for the entire community on Thursday night.

The event will start at 6 p.m. and run until 9 p.m.

It centers around the idea of bringing people together.

"The University stopped doing their thing at Hearnes Center, so we felt like the community needed something for families," Lieutenant Jeff Coffman, one of the founders of the event, said.

Then 700 people showed up.

"We weren't prepared at all. We called our chiefs once the bay was full of people, and said, 'Listen, we are either going to have to go out of service or get another company over here,'" Coffman said.

There were no calls for Fire Station 9 on that Halloween. Coffman added, family members and off-duty firefighters ensured everything was safely maintained.

This year, they are prepared.

"We actually close off our roads now so that we actually have parking for people to go in and out," Coffman said.

Candy, hay and pumpkins line the fire house in anticipation for the Halloween rush.

The department also made a new skee-ball game to spice up this year's event. This will join other classics like washers and cornhole.

It's not all fun and games, however. The firefighters ensure families take away fire safety lessons as well.

"We are encouraging people to keep anything flammable away from an open flame. For example, in a pumpkin," Brad Fraizer, the assistant fire chief, said.

Ultimately, the event is also encouraging for the firefighters.

"A lot of children want to be firefighters when they grow up. And to see them dressed up in those costumes really hits home to us," Fraizer said.