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    Higbee earns ‘spot’ on FCFD staff

    Higbee earns ‘spot’ on FCFD staff

    Photo By Aleah Castrejon | FORT CARSON, Colo. — Higbee is held March 24, 2021, during a retirement ceremony for...... read more read more



    Story by Aleah Castrejon 

    Fort Carson Public Affairs Office

    By Aleah M. Castrejon

    Mountaineer editor

    FORT CARSON, Colo. — Born Jan. 18, 2021, the newest member of the Fort Carson Fire Department (FCFD) already has a large role in the community.

    While the Dalmatian, Higbee, is normal in every puppy way, he is also unique, from the time he was born to how he received his name.

    Mascot in the making

    Capt. Torben Dalstra, fire captain, Station 35, Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site, bought a Dalmatian, Arson, in 2012. Dalstra said he always loved the breed and met a fellow Dalmatian lover on social media, who happened to have a female. The two began making plans to breed the pair, something they do not do regularly.

    During a meeting among the firefighters, Robert Fisher, fire chief, Fort Carson Fire and Emergency Services, mentioned wanting a mascot, Dalstra said, and quickly offered one of Arson’s pups to the station.

    “Arson comes from a really good line, and I just wanted to share him with the world a little bit,” Dalstra said. “That’s kind of how that all came to be. I guess it was meant to be. It is very exciting (to provide the mascot). It’s an honor and a privilege.”

    When choosing from the litter of eight, the team couldn’t resist the white puppy with the big black spot on his left eye.

    Making it official

    Ricky Oxendine, deputy director for Directorate of Emergency Services, said this is the first time the FCFD requested an official mascot, since he has been here.

    “This is something that Chief Fisher, along with his team, came up with and said, ‘hey it’s a great tool (and) motivator’ — and of course, children just love dogs.”

    That, he said, is a great way to introduce the fire safety messages to the children and the community as a whole.

    Fisher said there were Army regulations allowing for mascots through a formal process, but it involved work and leadership approval.

    “The process for us going through this is: we did the memo (and it) says that he will report for duty — as soon as he reports for duty, he will go to the (veterinary) clinic and get all of his records done, and all routine preventative veterinary care will be (done) as directed by that vet, here on post,” Fisher said.

    As for his future care, Fisher said he will be cared for similarly to the horses of the Mounted Color Guard.

    “Higbee is an official mascot for the fire department, which basically means that there are certain requirements and procedures that we have to do to maintain (his) care,” Oxendine said. “Because he actually becomes (cared for similar to) a military police working dog. He officially (goes into) the government system, as the mascot, for the fire department.”

    After finding the perfect mascot, the firefighters had to find a “fitting” name for the newest staff member.

    A Higbee notch is the notch on the lugs of a fire hose coupling. Fisher said the lugs stick up to pair fire hose ends, and when the notches are lined up, the firefighters can feel the connection — even in the dark.

    Probationary period

    Because he is coming on board with so many people to love and care for him, Nicole Bell, management assistant for FCFD, said Higbee is spoiled. And while he is still very much in the puppy phase, his day consists of a lot of what a puppy does: eat, sleep and train.

    Until Higbee is well-trained, he stays with fire department staff. The team rotates keeping Higbee on nights and weekends, so that the firefighters are not disturbed during their working hours.

    The firefighters and staff share in the care and responsibilities that Higbee receives, Oxendine added.

    But in the coming months Higbee will move up the “ladder,” and he will receive a harness vest and identifiers.

    “As he moves through his training, there is a potential for him (to receive) titles … right now he is ‘probationary’ … and then once he gets through some of his training, he can receive advancements in rank or stature, just like any other member of the department,” Fisher said.

    Community response

    As he grows, he will receive missions. But for now, Fisher said the department is trying to give Higbee as much exposure to the different stations and directorates as possible.

    “Everybody is drawn to him already,” Fisher said. “The team dynamics have only improved since Higbee’s arrival.”

    The firefighters are only just beginning to make memories with their newest crew member.

    Bell said Higbee is already responding when calls come into the fire station.

    “One of the fire alarms went off inside the building, when (firefighters) get their notifications to go out on a call, and Higbee started barking and he was running down the hall — like he was ready to go,” Bell said.

    The community response has been overwhelmingly positive, as people stop for pets, to drop off treats or just for a visit.

    “I just think that he is going to definitely be a positive asset for the Fort Carson community,” Bell said. “I cannot even go outside without people getting really excited and rolling down their windows and waving to Higbee.”

    Many people in the community flock to the firefighters, but not to see them, they head directly toward Higbee, wanting to pet him and hold him, Oxendine said.

    “He’s already made a huge impact within the fire department itself, as far as with the individual fire fighters, but he’s also already made a huge impact with many of the different organizations and units … just getting him introduced to the community,” Oxendine said.

    Missions rich with history

    While fire prevention has a mascot, “Sparky the Fire Dog,” the official mascot of the National Fire Protection Association since 1951, Higbee will serve as Fort Carson’s own live, local version.

    “(We are trying) to get him familiarized with groups of people and interaction with other animals, as well, so that he will eventually be at (public relations) events and public (education) events, so that he will not be shy,” Fisher said.

    Higbee’s presence will hopefully enlist more engagements from the kids when they visit the schools, Fisher said, and he is hoping for positive community outreach.

    “So far, it’s been a very positive thing,” Fisher added. “People seem excited about it, as far as coming in and checking on him and playing with him … it’s something that a lot of organizations don’t take advantage of, and we are lucky enough to have the command support to do it.”

    The Dalmatians missions have changed over the years.

    “It’s not just big red trucks and firefighters coming in,” Fisher added. “We actually have some of the historical heritage pieces of the fire department, because it’s always been associated with Dalmatians. And it gives more of a personal aspect when people come to visit.”

    Fisher said Dalmatians were embedded back when there were horse-drawn steamers, and the dogs would clear the way for the horses.

    While Higbee will not be guiding horses to fires or keeping horses’ company in their stalls, his mission is still significant.

    “Probably one of the most important things about Higbee is to gain kids’ attention,” Oxendine said. “He brings a message along with the firefighters about fire safety. Higbee’s going to be a big part of Fire Prevention Week in October, and not just in October, but throughout the entire year. We are going to go out and visit the different schools (and) child development centers — where (we) can deliver the message — Higbee is a big part of that as well.”

    Dalstra said it’s important to teach children about the Dalmatians and their history.

    “I’ve always been a huge fan of the breed; I was happy to make the donation to the fire house,” Dalstra said. “It’s been a tough year this year … any little thing to brighten up our situation, I think, is a good thing. And just to continue on with our traditions.”

    Follow Higbee on Facebook @FCFESOfficial.



    Date Taken: 04.23.2021
    Date Posted: 05.07.2021 15:51
    Story ID: 395946
    Location: US

    Web Views: 15
    Downloads: 0