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Sirens blaring, firefighters brighten girl’s birthday during virus pandemic

During shelter-in-place, fire truck drive-by makes special day memorable for 9-year-old

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DALZELL — Celebrating a birthday during the current COVID-19 shelter-in-place order can feel a little different, especially for younger kids who don’t fully understand why their birthday party had to be canceled.

Local firefighters are recognizing the disappointment and doing what they can to cheer up the day by offering a fire truck drive-by of the kids’ house with lights flashing and sirens blaring.

Bentlea Ernat of Dimmick Township turned 9 on Wednesday, and while she had been planning to celebrate at school with birthday treats and have a party with family over the weekend, those plans changed with schools closed and the governor’s order to stay home and practice strict social distancing.

Ernat’s mom, Stacey, heard the Dalzell Fire Protection District was providing the birthday greeting, so she messaged Fire Chief Rich Croissant and set up a time for his crew to do a surprise drive-by for her daughter outside her mother’s house in Dalzell.

About 12:30 p.m., the Dalzell ambulance and fire truck came barreling up the street where a speechless, but smiling, Bentlea stood in the driveway, not sure what to think about the small parade on behalf of her special day.

The crews gave a wave and smile as Bentlea waved back with her family recording the moment on their cellphones.

The neighbor across the street even waved from her door yelling, “happy birthday,” as the trucks drove away.

Stacey said she was very thankful the fire station took the time to make her daughter’s birthday memorable this year.

“It brings tears to my eyes,” she said.

Croissant said his department is just following the Quad Cities’ lead in trying something easy to make the best of the current situation.

“The smile on not only the kid’s face, but everyone involved including the firefighters, is what makes it awesome and worth it. Plus, it gets everyone outside safely and is just fun to do,” he said. “We love our community and they support us, so this is a small token to say thank you and remind them, no matter the situation, we are still there for them.”

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