MES Visits the Fire Station
October is Fire Safety month, and each year Malad Elementary School’s kindergarten, first, and second graders students make their way down to the Fire Station to get a close up look at what emergency responders do, learn a bit more about fire safety, and of course, use the firehose.
The tour is divided up into three main sections: fire safety, learning about the trucks and equipment, and hands-on fun. A large crew of the county’s firefighters were on hand to take the students through a range of fire fighting activities.
Jason Schwartz and Chet Palmer were a couple of the firemen on hand to talk through fire safety with the eager young learners. The presentation started with a typical range of questions about how to handle the types of situations kids are routinely exposed to.
“What do you do if you find a lighter?” Schwartz asked. “Tell an adult!” a chorus of voices shot back. “Good! What do you do if you see a fire?” Schwartz followed up. “Call 911!” Another chorus shouted back. The back and forth continued on with clear answers about the importance of establishing a family meeting spot, keeping fire extinguishers up to date, and making sure everyone in a house knew the procedures for fire escapes.
The students were then led the various equipment used by firefighters on their jobs. “We wear these masks because too much smoke will hurt you,” Schwartz said, as Potter demonstrated the equipment. “These coats are made out of a special fireproof material that keeps us safe, but it weighs a lot. These boots are also pretty heavy, but they are made so that if you step on something like a nail, it isn’t going to go through into your foot.”
The conversation made its way to individual techniques for fire suppression. “What do you do if a campfire catches you on fire?” Schwartz asked. After some prodding, the class responded with “Stop, drop and roll!” “That’s right,” Schwartz said. “The most important thing to do is stop. Don’t freak out. If you keep calm you’ll be able to get it out.”
The question and answer period led to a lot of questions about whether the fire fighters themselves had ever caught on fire, whether milk could be used to put out fires, and what the biggest fires they had seen were.
“I’m not sure about that,” Schwartz said, “but we did have a pretty big one just a couple weeks ago north of town.” Two fires near the summit erupted over the last months, burning a number of acres. Luckily, no people of structures were endangered by the fires, though they both came close to damaging property. The fires were only extinguished with the support and work of multiple agencies and volunteers, including those there at the fire station.
Next up was the training course, which included a maze, and the firehose. The Fire Station has constructed a long plywood “alley” with a tangle of ropes and other obstacles to simulate a cluttered interior space firefighters might be required to crawl through in full gear. The course is actually designed to allow responders to practice removing and re-equipping their external tanks and gear in order to enter restricted spaces, and then to navigate confined spaces. Many students took the opportunity to try the course with the heavy turnouts. While the experience was all smiles and giggles for the students, they also remarked on how difficult the experience was. “I could never do this fast!” one student said. “It just takes practice,” the supervising firefighter smiled.
Students were also introduced to the city’s main Fire Truck, as well as a number of its tools and features. The city has a full bay of trucks, designed to respond to a variety of situations. The fastest trucks are generally those used to respond to brush fires and small flare-ups. These trucks are more nimble than the larger city trucks, and allow firefighters to respond in a large number of different environments. The largest trucks care designed for primarily structure fires, and boast large capacities for water, up to 7,000 gallons on board, with a number of mechanism for utilizing fire hydrants and even local water sources such as lakes. An inflatable pool can be placed next to the city’s largest truck in order for airborne fire suppression vehicles to draw water from. Most of the county’s firefighting vehicles have been purchased through grants or special programs that provide decommissioned military vehicles to municipalities and county organizations at little or no cost.
The trucks themselves contain a number of firefighting implements that students found fascinating, from the tools used to break into locked doors, attics and other inaccessible areas to person protective equipment and the trucks’ array of sirens and lights.
Other than being given the chance to sound the trucks’ sirens, the highlight of the tour for many kids was the chance to try their hand at aiming and firing the firehose. A metal target that swings vertically on a pivot was used as a simulated hotspot, and students were tasked with causing it to spin by aiming consistently at a “fire” atop the arm of the device. Even those students who were at first cautious quickly took to it, and even tried to line back up for seconds.
“I do believe that’s the most fun part of the tour,” Justin Schwartz said. “And I get it—it is fun!”
The overall point, of course, is helping raise awareness among students about the reality and danger of fire. Every year, wildland fires are responsible for the destruction of millions of acres across the United States. This year, Idaho was ranked the state with the most active acres of wildfires for two consecutive months. Many of these fires were the result of human causes, and potentially could have been prevented by more vigilance. House fires across the state are responsible for many destroyed structures and the unfortunate loss of life. The hope is that students with increased vigilance and awareness of the potential dangers of fire situations might decrease those numbers.