|County’s fire prevention program growing like blazes|
|Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor|
July 23, 2006 -- Hopkins County Fire/Rescue's prevention program has grown so much in the last two years that the five participating fire department personnel spent two months visiting county schools and day care centers spreading their fire safety message.
Generally, departments are visited by or visit grade school children to better education them about fire safety and precautions to take in emergency situations during October, which is fire safety month.
But due to demand last year and the large number of elementary schools in Hopkins County, the firemen found themselves working through November to ensure all children had the opportunity to interact with the county's two fire safety clowns and accelerant detection canine Charlie.
"We do this because we want to help make the kids safe by giving them knowledge of fire safety, which hopefully will cut back on injuries from fires as well as other emergency incidents. In fact, we've had some kids who have been involved in accidents we've been on, and they ask about the clowns," said Hopkins County firefighter Brian Fairchild, who oversees the clown program.
This year, firefighters anticipate an even longer run, which could even see them starting even earlier to reach out to all the schools as well as day care centers and other child-oriented facilities to meet the ever increasing requests for the fun frolicking trio.
"The program is growing, getting bigger and better every year," Fairchild said.
The Hopkins County Fire Prevention Program began two years ago with just one clown, fireman Brian Fairchild. Last year, the department sent another fireman, David Dunn, to the annual firefighters convention in College Station to attend sessions to learn ways to improve fire safety programs and to become a certified clown.
Hopkins County Fire Investigator/Fire Prevention Specialist Steve Caudle get in on the act too, as a fireman in the skit, while his accelerant detection , Charlie, demonstrates to children how to "stop, drop and roll" if their clothing catches on fire. Firefighter Shane Reed also assists the fire prevention program as the sound system operator.
"We do a play format which is designed to better capture and hold children's attention. There are five of us now. I'm a clown and so is David Dunn. Steve Caudle is a character, and Charlie's in it too. Shane Reed does a great job with the sound board. This year we'll add a third clown, which will be Caleb Melton," Fairchild said.
Melton, like Dunn, will attend the annual firefighter's convention in College Station this year, where he too will become a certified fire prevention clown, according to Caudle. Melton's enrollment fees for the week-long training course come courtesy of one of three scholarships awarded to Hopkins County's fire department by Texas Commission on Fire Protection.
"Our goal each year is to increase the program, improving it every year," Caudle said. "In addition to sending Melton to Texas A&M to be certified as a fire prevention clown, we will be using a new sound system, purchased with a $1,000 grant from Wal-Mart, who was gracious enough to give us the money to help us upgrade the sound system."
The $1,000 grant will allow the department to upgrade the prevention program's sound system, including the sound board and providing wireless mics and speakers, for the children to better hear the program.
"We owe a big thanks to Wal-Mart. This will enable us to improve the sound. We're also going to try to buy puppets, one of the things we learned about incorporating last time at the convention, if we have enough money left," said Fairchild.
"We are also looking at the possibility of and hope to partner with [Northeast Texas Regional Academy -- Fire/EMS] academy during fiscal year 2006 to offer a citizens fire academy class," Caudle said. "Citizens would not participate in fire tactics but would go through a small portion of the fire academy training class."
The citizens could then help the county fire department at an incident.
"They would arrive at the scene and assist firefighters," Caudle said. "They could help with rehab and stuff like that. Or say if someone has special skills as a photographer, they would take pictures for fire department purposes. Each individuals would have different tasks, depending on need and their skills."