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Safety fair brings in the crowd

October 13, 2001|By LAURA MITCHELL, Staff Writer

Steering her pink Barbie Jeep, Natali Rivera, 5, almost got her first speeding ticket Saturday at Bucklin Park in El Centro.

A siren blared and a radio-controlled sheriff's patrol car — the same size as Natali's Jeep — was in pursuit.

"You were speeding," the "talking" German shepherd in the patrol car said.

Natalie and Harding Elementary kindergarten classmate Irie Ruiz, also 5, squealed with delight.

The children's activities were part of the fifth annual Safety Parade and Fair, sponsored by the Imperial Valley Fire Chiefs Association.

The event marked the end of National Fire Prevention Week.

Police, fire and health agencies throughout the county participated in the parade and fair. The parade started at 10 a.m. at Eighth and State streets and arrived at the park by about 11:30 a.m. The fair went on until 2 p.m.

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Children like to climb inside the cab of the fire engine and look at all the controls, Calipatria Fire Chief Chris Hall said. They also sit in the jump seats on top of the vehicle jump seats to see what the firefighters see.

But for those under age 7, the biggest attraction at the fair was the talking dog in the patrol car.

"Kids love him," Sheriff's Crime Prevention Supervisor Jerry Godsey said about the robotic dog.

Godsey's is the dog's voice.

Using radio control, the dog can converse with children while Godsey stands discreetly in the background. Most of the time, the kids never see Godsey and are surprised when the dog interacts with them.

The Sheriff's Office purchased the radio-controlled robot with $9,000 in federal anti-drug money, Godsey said. They've had the dog for two months. Saturday was its second public appearance.

Older kids were attracted to a light-armor Dragoon used for rescue, sniper and hostage situations.

"It's bullet-proof, so we can drive up safely without worrying about guns or rocks," said David Yaryan, an investigator with the Sheriff's Department.

The sheriff's office has had the vehicle for the past six months, on loan from General Dynamics until January for experimental purposes.

It's been used mostly for training but the department also used it for a homicide in Plaster City, Yaryan said. The sheriff's office intends to use the Dragoon during the Glamis recreation season, he said.

"We had a near-riot situation at Glamis last year," Yaryan said.

He said the recreation season usually begins the weekend after Halloween and gets big on Thanksgiving weekend.

The theme of this year's Safety Parade and Fair was "Cover the bases and strike out for fire."

Event organizer and El Centro fire permit coordinator Tina Ledyard said she noticed higher attendance this year.

"I think in light of Sept. 11, there are more people concerned with safety," Ledyard said. "They want to familiarize themselves with local law enforcement."

Last year Ledyard had 48 entries in the parade. This year she had 61. She also had about 35 agencies, such as fire and police departments, participate in the fair this year.

A lot of older people have been asking for information on arthritis, osteoporosis and diabetes, said Ceci Gastelo, senior secretary for the education department at El Centro Regional Medical Center.

The Sheriff's robotic patrol dog still has no name.

Godsey said the department is having a naming contest for the dog. More information on the contest can be found at http://www.icso.org/Name_the_robot.htm

Staff writer Laura Mitchell can be reached at 337-3452 or la_mitchel1@yahoo.com

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