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Up close with heroes, and their machines

From an armored BearCat to a truck used for stray dogs, locals of all ages got up close with the machines used in a variety of emergencies, and the heroes who ride behind the wheel of them.

Dozens of police, fire, rescue and charities converged with kids and families Saturday at the Rogue Valley Mall for the fifth annual Disaster-Emergency Preparedness & Safety Fair event, filling the mall parking lot with impossible-to-miss sights such as a Mercy Flights helicopter, fire engines of all stripes, police cruisers and more.

Beside Jackson County Sheriff’s Office’s matte green BearCat armored vehicle used by the agency’s Special Weapons And Tactics team, Cpl. James Biddle and Deputy Travis Cote answered a family’s questions about an apparent battle scar on one of the vehicle’s side windows.

It’s not a bullet hole, Biddle told them.

“It’s from a pike pole,” Biddle said.

It happened during an incident outside Rogue River near Valley of the Rogue State Park, when a man who’d barricaded himself in a trailer threw the logging spear at the bulletproof slit window in the cabin area.

“If it wasn’t crazy, we wouldn’t be out there,” Biddle said.

The spear only got through one of the more than 20 layers on the truck’s heavily armored windows. Biddle and Cote said the glass is “multi-hit,” and “still bulletproof” despite the puncture.

The truck itself is capable of carrying between eight and 12 officers and their gear, according to Cote. SWAT uses it about 20 times a year, sometimes when serving search warrants on high-risk individuals and other times for hostage rescue or barricade situations.

The relaxed event was also a chance for kids to interact with police and other first-responders.

One boy got a high-five from Biddle after telling the officer he’s planning to be a SWAT officer for Halloween.

Another youngster approached Medford police chief Scott Clauson, who was in uniform at the event, and asked Clauson if he’s a sheriff.

Medford’s top cop did not pull rank in his answer, kindly telling the boy that he’s a “city police officer.”

Medford police had a large presence at the event, according to Clauson, with events such as a “Bike Rodeo” where kids got bicycle safety tips and police ensured their helmets were properly fitted, and handed out coloring books with personal safety pointers such as to beware of strangers.

Kids also got a chance to get inside a Medford police cruiser in the department’s signature “Pacer Blue” and white.

Clauson acknowledged that the Dodge Charger patrol car on display is growing less common on patrol and officers transition to Ford Police Interceptors based off the Explorer SUV.

A child checking out the back of the Charger had minimal leg room, which according to Clauson only gets smaller for larger individuals, especially when the suspect is less than eager to be in police custody.

“You get a big guy and it’s just really hard,” Clauson said.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneMercy Flights paramedic training supervisor Marcus Allen explains the opperations of the inside of a helicopter at the Rogue Valley Mall Saturday.
Mercy Flights paramedic training supervisor Marcus Allen helps kids inside a helicopter at the Rogue Valley Mall Saturday.{ }Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune