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Students learn fire safety

The second-grade class from Prickly Pear Elementary got to learn about the equipment the Helena Fire Department uses on their fire trucks on Monday. Their field trip to the fire station was in conjunction with National Fire Safety Awareness Week.

This week the Helena Fire Department is hosting local second-grade classes to teach students fire safety techniques.

This decades-old fire education program often is the only fire training children receive. Deputy Fire Marshall Brad Taylor said he has been with the department for more than 20 years and the program has been there longer than that.

The event is nearly always held in conjunction with National Fire Safety Awareness Week, the second week of October. Throughout the week, Helena Fire Department will host 800 second-grade students from Lewis and Clark and Jefferson counties.

The schools involved are Bryant, Jefferson, Broadwater, Smith, Rossiter, Kessler, Jim Darcy, Warren, Central and Four Georgians, as well as Clancy School and Prickly Pear Elementary in East Helena. Prickly Pear and Clancy visited the department on Monday.

The students' visit starts with an educational film featuring Timon and Pumba from Disney’s "The Lion King." The video is packed with important fire information, including:

  • The Fire Triangle — three things a fire needs to burn: oxygen, fuel and heat.
  • “Breathe in smoke and you’re gonna choke,” a saying that illustrates the dangers of breathing in smoke to kids. “Get down and get out” is a song that teaches kids that smoke rises and staying low limits the amount of smoke you breathe in.
  • Don’t play with matches and lighters. Adults should always keep these items out of the reach of children.
  • Come up with an escape plan and have at least two exits. Have a family meeting place once everyone is out of the house.
  • Don’t worry about your belongings and leave pet rescue to the firefighters.  
  • If you discover fire, yell “Fire!” as loud as possible to wake others in the house.
  • Change smoke alarm batteries twice a year, test the alarms weekly and keep alarms adjacent to sleeping areas and on each level of the house.
  • Call 911 after you’re safely out of the home.
  • Stop, drop and roll. Cover your face when doing this. Running is the worst thing a person can do when they are on fire. Covering your face stops smoke from entering your airway.

All of this information played into this year’s theme: Look, Listen and Learn. Look for potential fire hazards in the home such as cooking, smoking and candles. Listen for smoke alarms and ensure they are in key locations. Learn at least two ways out of every room.

After the video, Taylor quizzed the students on what they had just learned. During this he had some help from Herbie the hydrant and Sparky the Helena Fire Department mascot.

Lt. Matt Welch then geared up in a full fire suit while discussing what to do when firefighters enter the home. This teaches children that a suited firefighter is nothing to fear and to not hide when a house is on fire. Welch told the students that if they ever see or hear a firefighter in their home that they should yell and shout to get their attention.

The students then followed Welch on their hands and knees to escape a smoky room. After the students practiced “stop, drop and roll,” they got to tour the firetrucks.

Taylor and Fire Marshal Lou Antonick said the reason second graders are chosen for this safety training is because they are impressionable. “Second grade is a good learning age,” said Antonick. “These kids are attentive and interested.”

“In second grade, kids are old enough to listen and retain information,” said Taylor. “And they know not to play with matches.”

Taylor went on to praise Antonick, who he said is instrumental in organizing the program

Helena Fire Department will continue this training all week. They will host up to four schools a day in order to educate as many students as possible on the importance of fire safety.

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