'Spark'ing interest in fire prevention
October 6, 2011
FORT CAMPBELL, KY, Oct. 6, 2011--It only takes a spark to start a fire.
It only takes a Sparky to start fire prevention safety.
Sparky, the mascot of the Fort Campbell Fire Department just might be the most popular figure on post to kids.
"'Sparky is cool,' 'Sparky is awesome,' 'hey, Sparky,' 'this way, Sparky,'" are just some of the lines heard from kids at Lincoln Elementary on Monday as Sparky roamed the halls of the school preaching and teaching fire safety.
"We get Sparky going early because it gets really hot in that suit after awhile," said J.R. Baker, Fort Campbell assistant fire chief.
Even the teachers stopped for a brief moment to give Sparky a hug or a high five.
However, as popular as Sparky is, he's only the beginning of some very serious training that has to start very early in life.
"What we do is bring out the smoke trailer to our schools and in this case we're sitting between Barkley and Lincoln," said Baker. "The kids in each class are brought out and we put them through our smoke trailer, give them some instruction material, they spend time with the firemen and they get to get inside of an official fire truck."
Baker said when the kids are taken into the smoke trailer; there are instructors all around them.
"There's an instructor in there with them and they explain to them what is going on," added Baker. "There's an instructor watching the monitor, one in the control room and they talk to one another and send in the smoke at the appropriate time."
Baker said the smoke trailer teaches the kids how to stay low and go.
"The instructor gets them in there and talks about smoke detectors going off and when our monitor instructor thinks they are ready, she signals the control room and they pump in the theatrical smoke," noted Baker.
"When the smoke billows into the room, sometimes the kids will freak out a bit, but the instructor tells them 'get down, get down, get down on the floor' and when the smoke alarm goes off, we'll open the door and they will begin to crawl out on their hands and knees," said Baker. "Once they get to the ramp, we ask them to stand up for safety reasons."
Some of the students seemed to think the smoke trailer was a bit too real.
"That smoke smelled like firewood stuff when it burns," said Elizabeth Sidonio, 7, a second-grader at Barkley Elementary. "It made me want to run when I saw the smoke."
"They taught us how to stop, drop and roll and call 911, too," she added.
Donnie Arnone, 7 and also a Barkley Elementary second grader had a cautious smile on his face after going through the trailer.
"That was fun and scary because it felt like it was real," he said.
Baker said the smoke trailer goes in line with "exit drills in the home" [EDITH] drills that are taught to help children find their meeting spot once they exit their home if it is filled with smoke.
"Today our meeting spot is at that mailbox we have set up in concrete and that is to signify that Families need to always have a meeting spot in case of a fire," said Baker. "They also need to be taught about contacting specific neighbors or Family members."
Baker said once the instruction from the smoke trailer and meeting spot is complete, the students are taken to an on-site fire truck.
This is where firemen instruct them on the tools they use and how their mask works and sounds children will be comfortable with them and recognize them in case of a real fire.
"We do all this so they're not fearful if they ever have to go through a fire and a firefighter has to enter their home," added Baker. "It can be a scary thing when they're in full gear."
The fire truck didn't make the impact the smoke trailer did with the kids, but still made one nonetheless.
"I like the smoke trailer and the fire truck because both taught us a lot about safety," said Lincoln Elementary fourth grader, Hannah Woodall, 10.
Of course, even with all the safety, there was the overwhelmingly cool factor for one young man.
"They told us about a fireman using a chain saw to cut off someone's roof and that's really cool," said Lincoln Elementary student Alexander Carrier, 5. "Sitting in that fire truck was awesome."