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Firefighters ignite resident’s birthday

Alice “Bobbie” Smith didn’t want to go to lunch for her 91st birthday, but she quickly changed her mind when she saw her chariot: Bremerton Fire Department’s brand-spanking new ladder truck.

Smith, who turned 91 of Friday, March 12, was expecting to go out to lunch with her granddaughter, Julie Fassio and her great-granddaughters, Sarah and Kayla Ford.

When the grandchildren arrived at the Charter House on Wheaton Way to pick up Smith, they had an entourage: a production crew from Seattle’s “Evening Magazine,” which airs on Channel 5. Fassio knew it was her grandmother’s life-long dream to ride in a fire truck, so she contacted “Evening Magazine” to see if they could make it happen. KING 5, in turn, called the Bremerton Fire Department.

Under the guise of a regular birthday lunch, the grandchildren took Smith through the lobby and were greeted at the door by Jim Dever, a reporter for the magazine. Dever, with microphone in hand, asked Smith if it was her 91st birthday and if she had always wanted a ride in a fire truck. She affirmed both.

Dever took a step to one side and pointed to the ladder truck and the accompanying firefighters who had been lying in wait out of sight.

Smith’s jaw dropped and her hands flew to her face. And all the spectators started crying tears of joy. Bawling, really.

Smith — who admitted to always having a thing for firefighters — chose the youngest firefighter to escort her to the fire truck. Latched onto firefighter Seth Jackson’s arm, Smith pranced to the fire truck like Cinderella headed to a ball.

“I never expected this,” Smith said.

She climbed up to the fire truck (with some assistance) and took her throne. As she settled in, the fire truck’s lights and sirens began to blare through the quiet Manette neighborhood. As it turned out, Smith accidentally set them off by bumping the button with her foot.

The firefighters drove Smith all around Manette and across the bridge to Fire Station 1 on Pacific Avenue for a birthday party complete with sandwiches, a cake and Red Rose hot tea, her favorite brand.

Smith said her life-long fascination for (and crush on) firefighters was developed when she was a college student in Seattle.

“When I was going to school in Seattle, the fire department was half a block away from my house. They had a horse and I would go over and talk to the firefighters and pet the horse,” Smith said. “(Fire fighters) are so important, so brave. They save so many people.”

A few minutes later, after serving cake to the firefighters and thanking them for her best birthday ever, Smith had one more thing to say about firefighters.

“They are more handsome than police officers,” she said.

“You should quote her on that,” Bremerton Fire Chief Al Duke urged.

During the hour-long party it was difficult to distinguish who was more thrilled — Smith, the firefighters, the camera crew or the spectators.

“I love it,” Jackson said. “This is what it’s all about: the people.”

Carole Heavener, an office assistant for the fire department, wiped the flood of tears from her face while she spoke about Smith’s reaction to her birthday surprise. “This is the neatest thing I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen a lot. She’s just precious.”

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