Liberty Road Volunteer Fire Company Festival

Naturalist Bryan Feylock shows off a great horned owl
Unlike the nice, cool weather we’d been enjoying all spring, June 4, 2016 was sunny and very hot. Turned out those were ideal conditions for a late spring festival at the Liberty Road Fire Company’s station in Randallstown, Maryland, just two short miles from the visitor center at Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area in Owings Mills. When the fire department asked Soldiers Delight Conservation, Inc., the Friends group for the nature preserve, to host a display at the fire station for their annual spring event, how could we say no?

SDCI president Laura Van Scoyoc and vice president Lynell Tobler, accompanied by board member Mark Jennys and Maryland state ecologist Wayne Tyndall, arrived at the Randallstown fire department and immediately began to deploy our special display: a table full of artifacts from the Soldiers Delight visitor center, a variety of highly invasive plants plucked from neighboring community spaces and plunged into buckets, and a few of the water bladders, Nomex fire suits and other gear used during controlled burns conducted yearly at Soldiers Delight to suppress invasive plants and promote germination of native flora along the serpentine barren.

Right next to our tableau, staff from Patapsco Valley State Park’s Scales & Tales program set up a wild animal exhibit featuring raptors and reptiles brought from the rehabilitation aviary at Soldiers Delight. In addition to a tiny eastern screech owl, the presentation included a bright orange corn snake, a great horned owl and a turkey vulture.

Wayne Tyndall, of the Maryland Wildlife and Heritage Service, helps youngsters shoot water at faux flames in SDCI's "prescribed burn" activity.
No sooner had our tables been made ready than a stream of children, their parents in tow, bade our displays a visit. Youngsters waited in line to dress up in the Nomex suits and then took turns shooting streams of water at “fire” (faux flames painted on a board), while their parents perused the literature and artifacts in our booth and asked questions about the invasive plants on display.

The animal exhibit was also a hit, as children and adults listened with rapt attention while naturalists Alison Bays and Bryan Feylock regaled them with interesting facts about raptor and reptile biology. Throughout the afternoon, we offered our message of conservation and did our best to promote enthusiasm for the ecosystem restoration efforts underway at Soldiers Delight.

Members of various community fire departments work together to dismantle a vehicle in a safety demonstration using the "jaws of life"
Not far from our exhibit, emergency personnel from several neighboring fire departments put on a demonstration with the “jaws of life”, mechanical pincers used to rip apart a vehicle’s metal hull in order to safely extract victims trapped within. Two smashed vehicles donated by a junkyard were set up in the fire department’s parking lot as if they had crashed into one another. Slowly and methodically, the fire department teams worked with the noisy hydraulic rescue tool to peel back layer after layer of various automotive body parts, until nothing was left of the roof and window frames of either vehicle. Fascinating stuff.

Another day, another wonderful opportunity to put forth our important message to the public: nurture nature and the wild things that live among us. Plant only native landscaping in your yard in order to prevent invasive seeds from spreading and taking over in our forests and wilderness areas. Honor and conserve for future generations the historical significance of fragile ecosystems like Soldiers Delight, where over 39 species of rare, threatened and endangered species of plant and animal life struggle to survive against the ravages of rapidly spreading invasive vegetation.

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