Area firefighters put on fire safety programs in schools

Bear Lake students get the opportunity to view one of the fire department's water rescue vehicles. First grade students from Ann Edmondson's class visited the department for Fire Safety Week.

Bear Lake students get the opportunity to view one of the fire department’s water rescue vehicles. First grade students from Ann Edmondson’s class visited the department for Fire Safety Week.

MANISTEE — The first grade student’s eyes went wide as he looked up at the tall man standing before him and his classmates in full turnout fire gear that included an oxygen tank on his back.

“Wow,” was the only word to emerge from the youngster’s mouth.

That exchange took place at Madison Elementary School when members of the Filer Township Fire Department visited the school as part of Fire Prevention Week. It was a scene that was repeated at Bear Lake, Onekama and Kaleva Norman Dickson schools by their respective township fire departments as a way to educate students on fire safety.

Filer Township Fire Chief Ron Gutowski said it is important to visit the school every year.

“We come up every year to show them the trucks and all the equipment,” he said. “What we also want to do is make them feel more relaxed when they see us in our turnout gear, so if there is an emergency they know not to be scared and the firefighters are there to help them.”

Gutowski said that they also put on some of the safety rescue equipment to teach the students that if they are involved in an accident situation not to panic.

“It gives us the chance to put the neck collars and other types of equipment on them,” he said. “That helps them know we are trying to help them if we need to do that to them at an accident scene and they shouldn’t be afraid.”

Gutowski laughed and said the firemen get just as much enjoyment out of the day as the kids.

“Our people have a lot of fun and we enjoy doing it every year,” he said.

Bear Lake Fire Chief Sean Adams said they have been running a regular program with students at the Bear Lake Schools every year.

“We had the Bear Lake Elementary first grade class of Ann Edmondson come down to tour the fire department,” said Adams. “They got to see some of our equipment and we allowed them the opportunity to spray some water out the hoses and talked to them about fire safety.”

Adams said it is a good learning tool for the kids.

“We have a couple of our guys suit up with the air packs on, so they can hear what it sounds like and to hear a fireman calling out in that gear,” he said. “Something else we stress is the need for an emergency escape plan from their home and to check out the smoke alarms with their parents.”

Bear Lake Schools principal Sarah Harless said the school wants to keep the program going in the future because the kids just love it.

“We are thankful to the Bear Lake Fire Department for providing this educational experience for our students,” she said.  “Fire Chief Sean Adams and his crew always host our students and let them experience a day in the life of a firefighter.”

Harless said the educational value is priceless.

“They teach them valuable lessons about what to do in the event of a fire or emergency,” she said. “It takes a village to educate our students, and the fire department is just one of our community partners that helps us.”

At the Onekama Consolidated Schools, the first grade class of Shantel Niederstadt  took a trip to the Onekama Village Fire Department during National Fire Safety Week. At the fire hall, students learned about fire safety and received a tour from firefighters Bret Mathieu and Clinton Osborn.

Students were given the opportunity to see the equipment up close and even try on some of the gear and spray a hose.

Kaleva Norman Dickson students also marked the importance of the month when the Dickson Township Fire Department brought out equipment. The firemen answered questions and explained the use of all the equipment on their fire rigs.

City of Manistee firefighters also made the rounds to area schools to put on similar programs for the students.

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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