When Marybeth Schnurr and her fellow "60-plus-ers" heard sirens for 20 minutes Tuesday night, they wondered what the sound meant:
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"We're a very warm community, so we kind of watch out for each other," Schnurr said of her neighbors at The Crescent. "Everyone was saying, 'Who do you think it might be?'"
Turns out, it was only Santa taking a holiday spin in a Bluffton firetruck.
The Bluffton Township Fire District was carrying on a tradition that Schnurr said she remembered from her childhood in Valhalla, N.Y.: taking Santa Claus for a ride so he knows the area before hitting the chimneys on Christmas Eve.
Off-duty firefighters and the district's Ladies Auxiliary volunteer for the ride-along. This week, they've visited the Hallmark Apartments, Old South, Sawmill Forest and neighborhoods off Buckwalter Parkway. The tour continues from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Monday through Wednesday of next week.
District spokesman Capt. Randy Hunter said that he has received no calls from folks alarmed by the ruckus and that residents are often pleasantly surprised when the truck rolls by.
"People come out of their houses like, 'Why are there firetrucks in our neighborhood?'" he said. "Then they see it's Santa and they'll say, 'Go get the kids!'"
The district posts the Santa truck schedule on its website -- blufftonfd.com/santa.php. -- so people from neighborhoods who aren't in the seasonal loop can plan a visit.
"Santa's got a tight schedule you know," Hunter said. "He can't be in Bluffton all of December. Next year we'll make sure to hit the developments he couldn't go to this year."
The six fire stations in the district also serve as official drop-off locations for letters to the North Pole. Festive mailboxes labeled "Santa Mail" are set up outside of each one.
For Schnurr, the fire district is definitely high on the nice list.
"I wish (Santa) would have come into the Crescent because I would have gotten out with my grandbabies and waved," she said.
Follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/LCBlotter.
Bluffton Township Fire District website
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