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JBSA News
NEWS | Sept. 29, 2008

Fire Prevention Week geared toward educating youth

By Thomas Warner Staff writer

Randolph Air Force Base will join other installations nationwide in observing Fire Prevention Week, with several activities in the coming days geared toward area youths. 

"It's a presidential declaration, set every year in October and based, in part, on the 'Great Fire of Chicago' that happened Oct. 9, 1871," said Eloy Uresti, Randolph assistant fire prevention chief. 

The infamous Chicago fire burned about four square miles to the ground and killed around 300 people. In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge referenced the tragedy when he began a campaign to educate as many people as possible on the dangers of fire, safety aspects and fire prevention methods. 

Mr. Uresti and the 24-person staff at Randolph's fire and emergency services will be key participants in national Fire Prevention Week activities Oct. 6-10 that feature structured, continuous interaction with local children. 

Hundreds of children ranging from pre-kindergarten classrooms to ages five and six will get to see first-hand how a firehouse operates, how fires are combatted and how they might save their own lives or the lives of friends or family. 

"We plan to take field trips with about 25 students on two different days," said Ana Guadron, nine-year Randolph Child Development Center program lead. "They need to understand that firefighters are important parts of communities. 

"I read once where some children were scared during a fire, when the firefighters tried to get them out of the building. They either didn't know or didn't trust the people who were trying to help them." 

That is a precise example of why the annual Fire Prevention Week campaign is successful nationwide. Children see fire personnel dressed in full gear and develop a bond of recognition where before, there was no clear understanding of the uniform or the actions displayed by those wearing it. 

"One reason I like (these events) is because they are 'kid-friendly' and they find ways to explain their message to every age-group," said Kim Sandmann, a family care provider who cares for military children off-base. 

Ms. Sandmann and other providers have four to six children, aged from six weeks to five-years-old, in their homes each day while their parents are working. She said her children practice fire drills several times a year. 

"The campaign at Randolph is positive and beneficial every year because the kids see the hoses and other equipment, plus they interact with the people working with the fire department," Ms. Sandmann said. 

Randolph youths will get up-close looks at fire trucks and visit with "Sparky," the national campaign mascot, during next week's activities. A poster contest has been ongoing, with judging and awards presentation to be finalized Oct. 7. Ribbons and plaques will be awarded to first- through fifth-grade winners, with the best art displayed in the base exchange in the next few weeks. 

"We'll conduct enrichment programs at the Randolph Youth Center and we will visit the elementary school along with what's planned for here at our station," said Mr. Uresti, describing static displays and interactive learning focused on slogans such as 'Stop, Drop, Roll' and 'Keep it Down: Teaching Students to Crawl Low Under Smoke.' 

More information on fire safety is available on the Internet at www.nfpa.org.