Firefighters drill message of fire safety to students

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Shelly Birkelo
Tuesday, October 8, 2013

JANESVILLE—As the fire alarm sounded, some of the preschoolers at Cradles to Crayons child care and learning center covered their ears as they walked from the building at 1930 Lafayette St.

“Come on you guys,” said cook and teacher Becca Dassow as she led them from the building.

“Good job,” praised Justin Wiskie, Janesville Fire Department paramedic from fire station No. 2, as he observed the Monday morning fire drill.

“These kids are so young they have to follow, but they did great,” he said.

The children were among thousands of local students from preschool to high school participating in fire drills and fire prevention programs led by Janesville firefighters in conjunction with Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 6-12.

Mary Weir, owner of Cradles to Crayons, said she invites the fire department for a visit every year during Fire Prevention Week.

“It's important they know fire safety, the fire truck and its significance,” she said.

Weir doesn't want her preschoolers to fear ambulances or firefighters.

“They need to know not to be afraid of these things and that they're here to help,” she said.

When the drill was over, the preschoolers were invited for a close-up look at fire engine No. 82 and ambulance No. 92.

“Have you ever seen a fire truck before or a firefighter?'' asked Josh Uecker, paramedic, as he knelt down in front of the preschoolers.

Behind him, intern Scott Devault put on his fire fighting coat, pants, helmet and air mask.

“Do we have to be scared of him?” Uecker asked.

“Yeah,” a couple kids said in unison.

But, the firefighters echoed back: “No-o-o-o-o.”

“Firefighters are here to help you and to keep you safe,” Uecker said.

As Devault continued to slip into his gear, Uecker explained that he was putting on warm clothes to stay safe just like the children do in winter.

Then the children were allowed to touch Devault in his fire fighting gear.

“Can I get a high-five?” he asked.

“See, it's just me,” Devault said.

The kids took turns sitting in the fire engine and walking through the ambulance.

Lt. Ron Bomkamp discussed calling 911 in an emergency and what to do if they find matches on the ground.

“We don't ever play with them. Give them to an adult,” he said.

While most of the kids were left speechless and awed by the size of the equipment, 1-year-old Easton Stenson squealed with excitement.

“This will make you guys all better,” said Matt Patridge, driver, sitting inside the ambulance.

“Our goal is to get the message of fire safety home,” said Sue North, fire marshal.

“It doesn't always happen through adults, so in cases with little kids and baby sitters, we want them to know what to do. If they remember one thing—to get out—that's our main goal,'' she said.

Firefighters are kept busy this time of year giving tours to children at fire station No. 1 on Milton Avenue, North said.

“We show them a video on fire safety, give a tour of vehicles and everybody loves it when the firefighters slide down the pole,” she said.

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