BEND AREA — Firefighters from the New Haven and Mason departments marked “Fire Prevention Week” on Wednesday with a visit from more than 500 children to the New Haven fire station.
Students from New Haven Elementary walked class by class to the station to learn not only prevention, but what to do in case a fire occurs.
“I feel we do a very comprehensive program,” said New Haven Fire Chief Stephen Duncan. “But the single most important thing we teach them is to have working smoke detectors.”
The children first entered the station, where they were shown a movie about establishing escape routes, having a family meeting place, and how to escape from a fire. “Stay low and go” is the rhyme the kids are taught so they remember to crawl through a smoke-filled house.
New Haven Assistant Chief Manning Roe organizes the event each year, and told the children to never go back inside a burning building. He said families should practice their escape plan at least twice a year, but recommends once a month. Lisa Gangwer told the children the proper way to use 911, telling them to only call in case of emergencies.
Next, firefighters donned their gear to show the children, especially the younger ones, what they might look like when they enter a home. The students were urged to never hide from a fireman, even if they are frightened.
The children had the opportunity to meet Sparky the Fire Dog before finally moving outside to the “Fire Safety House.” The house is a mobile unit filled with smoke to allow the children to actually practice what they had been taught. Some of the classes were allowed to “escape” the house by way of the window, with a fireman’s assistance.
Duncan said the fire safety house is used not only in Mason County, but surrounding counties such as Jackson (W.Va.), Gallia, and others. He said about 2,000 children go through the house annually at festivals, 4-H events, and church gatherings, along with events held by fire departments.
Each child was given a bag containing age appropriate puzzle and coloring books, stickers, practice escape routes, and locations where smoke detectors should be placed.
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing who lives in Mason County.