Academy FD takes prevention message to kids

  • Published
  • By David Edwards
  • Academy Spirit staff writer
The Academy Fire Department spends one week each year trying to teach children lessons the firefighters hope will last a lifetime -- and maybe even prolong some lifetimes.

Local observance of Fire Prevention Week was thorough, as fire department personnel blanketed the base Oct. 10-13 with educational materials, words of wisdom and some attention-grabbing props.

The action began at the Base Exchange, where the department's 1929 REO Speedwagon fire engine was on display. The antique truck was donated to the Academy in 1995 by the family of Chief Golden Simmons.

Since then, the Speedwagon has been a cherished possession of the Academy Fire Department. It also made an appearance Oct. 12 at the Child Development Center.

About 350 students at Douglass Valley Elementary School welcomed firefighters Oct. 11 for a DVD presentation and demonstration of fire-protection gear and a modern fire truck.

Both the elementary students and the preschoolers at the Child Development Center were treated to a visit by Smokey Bear and Sparky the Fire Dog. Smokey and Sparky also graced the Cadet Area and the Falcon Youth Center with their presence at the end of the week.

Fire Inspector Mike Mater showed a video to the preschoolers that stressed the importance of developing a family evacuation plan.

"(We're) catching them early, building on things that they will take with them for the rest of their lives," he said. "Often the kids will go home and tell their parents what they learned and the family will create a fire-escape plan."

For the most part, Smokey and Sparky were warmly received, although some of the preschoolers were tentative at first and one little girl was intimidated to the point of tears. The Speedwagon, however, was a big hit.

Dealing with a wide assortment of attention spans was part of the challenge, but Fire Prevention Week is the department's time to shine without the stress and perils of the job impinging. Cool stuff and furry animals tend to help the cause, too.

"One of the neatest parts of doing this is when random parents come up to me and tell me how much of an impact our visit made," Mater said. "(The kids are) still talking about it even as the school year goes along."