Firefighters have big red sleigh |

Firefighters have big red sleigh

“It’s red, and green,” Joshua Doughty said, looking up from under his red knit cap at the fire truck parked near his home on Albert Street.

Joshua couldn’t name all the colored light displays adorning the truck, but with the help of his parents, the 4-year-old recognized Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer high atop the truck’s ladder.

Temporarily trading emergency lights and sirens for Christmas lights and carols, the South Lake Tahoe Fire Department’s Christmas truck is visiting different neighborhoods each night through Christmas Eve. Firefighters are handing out candy canes to children from 5 to 9 p.m.

Police and Fire Chief Brad Bennett, who rode the truck with his wife and an off-duty firefighter Monday night, said the aim of the program is to “get the community in the Christmas spirit and let the kids know that we’re here to help.”

While Joshua tried to guess the number of lights on the truck, across the street children holding candy canes and bundled against the cold debate about what was best about the fire truck. The lights, music, and especially the candy were all put forth as the truck’s coolest features.

“Every kid in town gets excited when the fire truck comes to their neighborhood, it is great for the (fire) department and the community,” said Mike Mosca, whose children Alana and Hailey, took part in the discussion.

Mosca, a volunteer firefighter, spent Sunday night at Santa’s House outside Fire Station No. 2, which provides Santa Claus with a place to welcome children.

Originally held by the city of South Lake Tahoe Parks and Recreation Department, Santa’s House was abandoned for several years due to budget cuts.

“Santa’s House had been sitting in a yard for a few years, and since we already did the fire truck we thought it would be nice if we picked it up,” said firefighter Jeff Valeney.

Each night from 6 to 9 volunteer firefighters act as Santa’s helpers and accept donations for needy children.

Volunteer Ron Sitton, said the response from the community has been “overwhelming,” adding that he hoped more people will take advantage of the opportunity to meet Santa.

Jon Anderson, another volunteer, was also cheered by the generosity of the guests at Santa’s house.

“People are coming to see Santa with cans of food and toys, so not only are they getting into the holiday spirit kids are helping the needy and less fortunate too,” Anderson said.

Unfortunately, duty called both Santa and the Christmas truck to a fire shortly after 8 p.m., but not before Joshua guessed there were four lights on the truck, the greatest number he could think of.

Bennett said the fire “made for an interesting evening, but the highlight was definitely handing out candy and seeing the joy it brought to the kids.”

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