OAKHURST – The Oakhurst Office of the California Highway Patrol invites the community to be part of “National Night Out,” an annual event meant to bring together law enforcement officers, first responders, and the communities they serve in an informal setting.
The festivities will take place in the parking lot of the old Blockbuster store in the Old Mill Shopping Center on Highway 49 in Oakhurst from 5 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 4.
There will be CHP K9 and Motor Officers, SWAT Team members and a SWAT vehicle, plus Cal Fire engines to check out up-close. Sierra Ambulance will also have a unit at the event, and the Madera County Sheriff’s Office will bring their Command Center. Yosemite National Park and the US Forest Service will also be participating.
Of special interest to kids of all ages will be the appearance of Smokey Bear and McGruff the Crime Dog.
“This is all about creating awareness and understanding in the community,” says Kaci Lutz, CHP Public Information Officer and event organizer. “It’s a chance for everyone to stop in and become familiar with all the emergency services in our area, take a look at all the equipment, ask questions, have some food, and get to know the officers, firefighters and EMS personnel.”
Typically these events are done in conjunction with Neighborhood Watch, like block parties, but this is being adapted to fit the mountain communities.
There will plenty of booths set up where people can learn more about each agency and the men and women who serve as our first responders, and have any questions answered. Specifically from her agency, those questions could range from car seats to general rules of the road, says Lutz.
One interesting project seasoned citizens may have questions about is the new CHP Senior Volunteer Program, now in the works at the Oakhurst CHP office, and expected to launch by the end of the year.
“The new program will be open to those over 65 years of age,” says Lutz. “They will go through a background check, and if they pass that, they will then go through a week-long academy. There are a lot of retired folks who want to be part of the department, and this will operate similar to the Sheriff’s Citizens On Patrol. Volunteers will help with duties around the office, drive cars from point A to point B, assist with traffic control, special projects and public information events.”
Oakhurst CHP Commander Lt. Jason Daughrity has made it a priority to engage with the public at every opportunity, and has plans for more and varied events in the future. The hope is also to expand on National Night Out next year.
“If the community and local businesses show an interest and want to be part of this, we hope to have something more like a farmer’s market environment,” says Lutz. “It’s all about businesses and public service. Next year, we might be able to hold it in a larger venue and maybe do something like add a bounce house. This is our first year, so we’ll focus on the public service aspect and build it from there.”
National Night Out is a cohesive effort to promote involvement in crime prevention activities, police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie.
Make an evening of it as the mountain area celebrates our Emergency Services and our community, and get to know those who respond when emergency calls.
Anyone wishing to donate to the event or wanting more information is invited to call Officer Kaci Lutz at 559-658-6611.