Last updated: May 31. 2013 10:22PM - 167 Views
Lindsay Craven
Staff Writer

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East Bend Elementary students found themselves trying to escape from a smoky house using fire skills instilled in them throughout the years on Oct. 10.

The East Bend Volunteer Fire Department held its annual fire safety event for East Bend Elementary students throughout the day.

“The purpose of this program is to instill into them the fire safety,” said Ronnie Boles, East Bend Volunteer Fire Department Fire Chief. “Most of these kids have been through this program ever since pre-school and we run every grade level through every year.”

Depending on their grade level, students were given a tour of the fire department starting with the fire truck, then the turnout gear that every fire fighter must wear, a video on the fires that East Bend fire fighters have found themselves in and finally the smoke house.

The smoke house is a mobile trailer that simulates a house for the students. In each room fire fighters talk with children about potential fire hazards that they may find around their house and how to prevent them if they see them. The tour takes them through a living room setting, a kitchen setting and a bedroom setting.

“The fire safety trailer is to show them different rooms and things that they can look for to prevent stuff,” Boles said. “If they can prevent it before it gets started then that is huge for us.”

First grade and forward were allowed to participate in the smoke room which simulates a fire situation and has the children practicing an escape.

“With the pre-school classes we start out real basic,” Boles said. “We’ll go through some basic things that we feel like that they can absorb. We don’t put them through any smoke or any situations that would make them really nervous. As they get older we add more to it.’

Boles said that the program continues to go more in depth as the kids get older. He says that they try to incorporate things the students may be learning in the classroom and tie it back to what fire fighters do in their job.

“We try to sprinkle in stuff that interests them along with the education,” Boles said. “As the kids get older they need to learn more about math and reading and those kinds of things. We try to teach them that just to be a fireman you have to learn to read and you have to learn math. We hope that makes them more interested to learn about those things in the classroom. We ask them questions and we let them respond back to us and then we know how far in depth we need to go with it.”

Boles said that he has the benefit of having a child who is a student at East Bend Elementary and so he goes to him on guidance for what the kids want to learn and what activities would be most interesting to them.

“I pick his brain a little bit to see what they want to see,” Boles said. “This is the educational part that I want them to have. When I ask him what he would want to see he always tells me things like the trucks, our gear and that they want to see what our job is. Those are the things that interest them.”

Boles said that East Bend shares its fires safety smoke house with other schools in the area once they complete their program at East Bend. The trailer was purchased used seven years ago. Today they can take it to surrounding fire departments and allow them to train their local students in fire safety.

“When we purchased it we took it to these other locations and we trained the other fire departments with it so that we don’t have to be there,” Boles said. “We can just drop it off and leave it. That way the kids at Forbush Elementary School are seeing the guys from the Forbush Fire Department. They can start putting names with faces and start getting to know each other.”

Boles said that this year’s fire safety theme is “know two ways out.” The theme is decided each year by the National Fire Protection Agency.

“We base a lot of our education on what theme they decide to set,” Boles said. “They take the data from when the fire departments file reports and they compile a report for the whole nation and they see where the focus needs to be based on what kind of calls the departments have been responding to the most.”

Boles said that the fire safety event would not be possible without the help of his volunteers who are dedicated to giving their time to make sure that children and their family are safer.

“Every one of these guys have jobs that they had to take a vacation day from in order to be here,” Boles said. “We couldn’t hold this event without these guys who are willing to give their time. We have a really great group of volunteers here.”

Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at lcraven@heartlandpublications.com.

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