SUNNYSIDE – With emergency lights flashing and a first response siren resonating from the campus entrance, Pioneer Elementary School third grade student David Espinoza made his arrival on the first day of class a memorable one – thanks to Sunnyside Fire Department personnel and Truck No. 1 last Wednesday.

Firefighter Zach Heeren opened the cab door where Espinoza was harnessed in a rear facing seat with the window down, the nine-year-old was wearing a custom red T-shirt with the contest picture of himself sitting next to Firefighter-Paramedic Sean Glasser on the front.

Once he was unhooked from the seat, the beaming Puma student donned his SFD plastic hat which matched the four alarm look he had going on and climbed down from the rig to pose for pictures with family members, fire and school officials.

“I had fun riding in the big fire truck, and it was so cool,” Espinoza humbly stated after both feet were firmly placed on the ground. “When we entered the school, the horn was loud like we were going to a fire.”

Espinoza entered the Second Annual Ride in a Fire Truck to School Photo Contest during National Night Out at Central Park on Aug. 6 by having his mom, Maribel Perez take a picture of him with Firefighter-Paramedic Sean Glasser.

She messaged the photo to Sunnyside Professional Firefighter’s Local 3542 Facebook page, and it was uploaded on their site the following day. The picture with the most “likes” by 8 a.m. on August 20 would be the winner.

Over the next couple of weeks, the contest reached almost 36,000 people with more than 3,600 “likes” on all the photos combined. Espinoza received a winning total of 934 “likes.”

According to his mom and before he had won, the nine-year-old voiced his love for both parents and thanked them for taking part in the contest. She said they would check in daily to see the progress which was difficult at times because it was a back and forth race until the very end.

“David was super excited about the fire truck ride and it was a dream come true for him. So, we were happy to do it and make it special for him,” Heeren acknowledged. “It’s fun for us to be able to get out in the community and be a part of something like this.”

Maribel informed the SFD hat David wore into school was from a previous firehouse visit in which he kept safely in his room. The shirt she had made for him to commemorate the occasion and plans to frame it as a childhood piece of memorabilia, read with the caption, “Thank you to our supporters we did it (heart) I’m riding in the fire truck first day of school.”

Patrick Shelby can be contacted at 509-837-4500, ext. 110 or email

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