A controlled fire event by the Oak Lawn Fire Department shows how quickly flames can spread in a home during the Oak Lawn National Night Out event held Tuesday night in the village's Municipal Hall parking lot. (Photos by Joe Boyle)

A controlled fire event by the Oak Lawn Fire Department shows how quickly flames can spread in a home during the Oak Lawn National Night Out event held Tuesday night in the village's Municipal Hall parking lot. (Photos by Joe Boyle)

Oak Lawn’s ‘Night Out’ is community celebration

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A young boy pets Thor, the 2-year-old K-9 of the Oak Lawn Police Department, as his owner, Officer Bob Carroll, looks on during the National Night Out event Tuesday night. 

By Joe Boyle

Presentations by the police and fire departments — along with food and music — were the major highlights of the Oak Lawn National Night Out on Tuesday.

National Night Out is held the first Tuesday in August. The lone exception is Texas, which marks the occasion in October.

National Night Out was first established in the suburbs of Philadelphia back in 1984.

The annual Oak Lawn event is held in the parking lot of Municipal Hall, which also shares police and fire department stations.

The original National Night Out events encouraged residents to turn on their porch lights in recognition of the police force. Parades have since been organized. But in the past 20 years, the event has become a more festive occasion that allows the police and firefighters to interact with residents and children in a more relaxed setting.

“The Arts Committee has added more this year,” said Trustee Paul Mallo (3rd). “We are more spread out through the parking lot. We have face painting and music, too. There is just more for everyone this year.

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Jacob Sert, 7, of Tinley Park, wears police gear provided by the Region 4 South Mobile Field Police during the Oak Lawn National Night Out Tuesday night. 

“This is a national event,” Mallo added. “Everyone should come out and have fun.”

A large crowd of people continued to file in throughout the evening. Hot dogs, hamburgers and popcorn were available from Boy Scout Troop 596, based out of Mount Zion Church in Oak Lawn. Kids had an opportunity to enter police vehicles and check out a jail cell inside the police station.

Youths also received plastic firefighter helmets and had an opportunity to slide down a fire pole. Region 4 South Mobile Field Police put some of their gear on the kids who came by their table.

The Oak Lawn National Night Out is among many now that are held in the southwest suburbs and in Chicago. Each offers something a little different. Besides food at the Oak Lawn event, two presentations were held that drew large crowds.

Officer Bob Carroll, of the K-9 unit, introduced Thor, a 2-year-old German shepherd that is the unit’s canine. Carroll then proceeded to have Thor approach a truck that contained narcotics and other illegal devices. Thor found the drugs quickly.

“This dog will find the drugs in a few minutes in which we may take a couple of hours,” said Carroll, who has been a member of the K-9 unit for the past year.

Carroll said he enjoys working with Thor, who was originally from Slovakia.

“He loves to come to work,” Carroll said about Thor. “And he loves to find drugs.”

Another police official noted that money raised for the unit, the dog and equipment comes from the offenders who are arrested for narcotics and other crimes.

“So, I guess we should thank them,” the officer said.

The other presentation was from the fire department, which held a “controlled burn,” that included two similar living rooms. The one room included sprinklers, which put the blaze out in just over two minutes.

The second room had no sprinklers. The department started the fire and the flames spread quickly with black smoke spewing out of the top of the structure. The fire department allowed the blaze to envelop the room and then quickly put it out.

Fire department officials informed an attentive crowd that included parents and children that sprinklers would be a great help in extinguishing a fire. They reminded parents to have smoke detectors in their homes.

Oak Lawn Mayor Terry Vorderer said the village has a reason to be proud of their police officers and firefighters.

“We really love our police and fire departments,” Vorderer said. “Our village really appreciates what they do. And for people who don’t live here, maybe you should think about moving to Oak Lawn.”

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A variety of activities took place at the Oak Lawn National Night Out Tuesday night, including face painting. 

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