KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany - Raising children to be fire-safety conscience adults is why the U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern's Fire Department is performing a "Sesame Street" puppet theater with "Bert & Ernie" at the garrison's three Child Development Centers.

"My strong belief is that if we raise children with fire safety in their heads, it's easier for us in the future," said Juergen Stegner, the garrison's fire chief.

"Bert & Ernie" visits the CDCs on Kleber Kaserne, Miesau Army Deport and Landstuhl Regional Medical Center every year in observance of National Fire Prevention Week, which is Oct. 5-11 for 2008. The garrison's fire department has performed this skit at the child care facilities for 22 years.

"I know they are young, but the little scenarios in the puppet show will entice the children to talk to their parents about what they saw," said Paul Ward, the Landstuhl CDC director, during an Oct. 7 puppet show performed at his center.

Preschoolers at the Kleber child care center saw the show Oct. 6, and those at Miesau attended an Oct. 7 performance.

Stegner has had parents contact him after their children have seen the puppet show, expressing how much the young ones have learned.

"Parents tell me all the time, 'My child approached me about the smoke detector or giving matches to grownups.' This is sometimes from a 3- or 4-year-old. It's almost unbelievable," said the fire chief.

Children, ages 3 to 5, learn the importance of fire detectors in the first skit, "Metal Cookie"; what to do when they find matches or lighters in the second, "The Match"; and not to be afraid of firefighters in the third, "The Monster."

Matthew Scott, 5, called "The Monster" the best skit, which has a garrison firefighter entering the room in full gear. The firefighter then removes his "frightening" attire - gloves, helmet, breathing apparatus, oxygen tank and jacket - to show the children "that he's a human being and not a monster," explained Stegner.

One reason Matthew enjoyed the skit: he wore some of the outfit, including helmet and coat.

"I liked the firefighter's clothes; it wasn't heavy," he said, responding to Stegner's comments that the gear "weighs a lot."

Sierra Otto-Roddan, 4, also tried on some of the clothing but still found "The Match" as her favorite sketch.

"I liked when they called a grownup to put (the match) in a special place," she said.

Her room leader, Gertrud Medina, was the adult "Ernie" called over to take the match, which Medina said was an "excellent way to teach children what to do when they find something dangerous."

And "Why have adults talk about how many gallons of water per minute on a fire truck when you can have 'Bert & Ernie' bring the (fire safety) message to them," added Stegner.

Fire Prevention Week commemorates the Great Chicago Fire on Oct. 8 and 9, 1871, that killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres. In 1920, President Woodrow Wilson issued the first National Fire Prevention Day proclamation, and since 1922, Fire Prevention Week has been observed on the Sunday through Saturday period in which Oct. 9 falls.

Page last updated Thu October 9th, 2008 at 07:30