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Public Affairs : 2013 Fire Prevention Week

West Point school children learn fire prevention 

Story and photos by Kathy Eastwood
Staff Writer
WEST POINT, N.Y. (May 16, 2013) —The West Point Fire Department visited the West Point Elementary School Oct. 8-10 and provided demonstrations in fire safety and prevention for Fire Prevention Week. The national theme for this year’s Fire Prevention Week is “Prevent Kitchen Fires.”

Fire Prevention Week coincides with two very destructive fires—the great Chicago fire that began Oct. 8, 1871 and the Peshtigo forest fire in Northeast Wisconsin, which also began Oct. 8 in the same year. The Chicago fire killed more than 250 people and burned more than 2,000 acres while the Peshtigo forest fire burned 16 towns and killed 1,152 people. Before the fire ended, 1.2 million acres of land was scorched.

Children toured the Orange County Fire Safety Trailer, which includes a small kitchen with a stove. The stove is purposely set up where a fire could start, such as a cloth or paper towel set dangerously close to a burning stove.

Fire inspector Kenny Canfield talked to the children about smoke alarms and asked children if they knew what the smoke alarm does.

“Oh, I know,” one first-grader said. “One went off in our house the other day because the kitchen got too hot. Boy, is that loud.”

Canfield told the children that they can usually see smoke or a fire, but a smoke alarm will emit a loud high pitch sound for smoke that may not be seen. Smoke alarms, playing with matches, being careful when burning candles and using common sense was the safety message for the fire prevention event along with what to do when there is a fire.

“If there is a lot of smoke, get down on the floor, because smoke rises,” Canfield said.
Sparky the Firedog poses with first graders during a fire safety class Oct. 9 at the West Point Elementary School for Fire Prevention Week. 
During Fire Prevention Week Oct. 6-12, West Point firefighters taught fire safety to West Point school children at the elementary school Oct. 9. Firefighter Austin McCarty suits up to demonstrate what a fireman needs to wear and the safety precautions necessary to fight fires.
Canfield said being near the floor is safer and advised to have a family escape plan and practice using it.

Firefighters also demonstrated the uniforms and equipment they use when fighting a fire, which helps to dispel fear of a firefighter in the home, especially to a child.

“Kids ask a lot of questions,” Fire Inspector Cindy Cushing said. “They especially ask about the fire gear. I think the most asked question is how much does the fire equipment weigh.”

Fire Prevention Week for this year is Oct. 6-12, and officially began in 1920 when then President Woodrow Wilson issued the first National Fire Prevention Day proclamation. Fire Prevention Day became a week in 1922.

The idea of a fire prevention observance had its beginnings on the 40th anniversary of the Chicago and Peshtigo fires when the International Fire Marshals Association thought the week should be observed by keeping the public informed about the importance of fire prevention. Since then, communities across the nation present fire safety messages to schoolchildren and community members.