Perhaps the best way to fight fires is preventing them from happening in the first place.
That’s why the Greenfield Fire Department spends several days each year educating the city’s youth during October, which is recognized nationwide as Fire Prevention Month.
This fall was no different as the city’s firefighters participated in several fire prevention initiatives, including visits to the city’s four public and three parochial schools.
Assistant Fire Chief George Weber estimates that 2,600 students received valuable tips on fire prevention during school visits and presentations that ran from mid-September through mid-October.
“We basically go out teaching students and educating them,” Weber said.
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The presentations are geared to specific age groups, Weber said. Firefighters bring a fire engine or ambulance to kindergarteners for “show-and-tell” and first-graders get a visit from heavy equipment operator Greg Holz and his Dalmatian Pyra, who is trained to stop drop and roll on command.
“The kids love that,” Weber said.
Second-graders receive 40-minute presentations on fire safety and home exit drills, and third-graders watch a fire prevention video and spend time in the department’s smoke/safety house, a teaching tool that gives students hands-on experience.
Fourth-graders use the interactive hazard house, a giant dollhouse equipped with electronics that produce real-life fire scenarios, and fifth-graders play a round of “Fire Jeopardy,” a game-show style quiz that tests students on what they’ve learned over the years.
“I’d say 90 to 95 percent of the kids retain that information through the fifth-grade level,” Weber said.
Fire Chief Jon Cohn said he likes the department’s approach to visit grades by level, instead of en masse.
“You can do it in a presentation and fill up an auditorium, but we’ve decided the message is a little bit better delivered in small groups,” he said. “To use a small class structure, there’s better discussions and probably a better focus on what the message to take home is.”
Beyond the school visits
The fire department participated in other events this October as well. One day during fire prevention week, which was Oct. 7-13, they delivered pizzas and smoke detectors with Toppers Pizza during a promotion through Safe Kids.
The fire department also visited a Morgan Oaks Home Owners Association meeting and will stop by as many as three trick-or-treat block parties this weekend.
And while not directly tied to Fire Prevention Month, two tours came through the fire stations Thursday: a group of special needs students from Greenfield Middle School and a Brownie troop that brought desert for the firefighters, ate with them, helped clean up afterward and washed a fire engine.
“We’re trying to get a message to the kids and the parents,” Cohn said. “To interact with them and get the message out is important.”