Puppets, clowns and a fun fire safety message

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

Oct 21, 2007 - Hopkins County’s Fire Prevention program continues to grow, with new acts and additional information each year. The program started four years ago with just one clown, and has grown to include up to three clowns, a puppet, sound system operator, an arson detection dog and two uniformed firefighters at a time.

The team visits all county schools, carrying their sound system complete with speakers, wireless microphones, amps and laptop full of songs and sound effects with them.

In addition to the county school, Hopkins County Fire Prevention Team also visits schools in Sulphur Springs day cares and church on request. HCFPT usually does between 12 and 15 shows during the month of October and first part of November. So far this year, they have 14 shows scheduled, and calls are still coming in. They’ve already visited Miller Grove, Como-Pickton, Saltillo and Bowie Elementary to name a few. Their shows are targeted at students up to about second or third grade, and can be for a large audience or for a single classroom or group.

�The Hopkins County Fire Prevention Team members are very proud about their growth in the past few years and excited of what is to come,� said firefighter Caleb Melton, also known as ResQ.

�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,� said firefighter Brian Fairchild, who portrays Q2.

��Our goal is to go out to all the schools and day cares to educate kids on fire prevention. Our goal each year is to increase the program, improving it every year,� HCFD Investigator Steve Caudle said.�

Hopkins County Fire Prevention Program began with just one clown, fireman Brian Fairchild. The second year, the department sent another fireman to the annual firefighters convention in College Station to attend sessions to learn how to effectively portray a fire safety clown, ways in which to improve fire safety programs and to become a certified clown.

Hopkins County Fire Investigator/Fire Prevention Specialist Steve Caudle got in on the act too, as a fireman in the skit, while his accelerant detection dog Charlie demonstrates to children how to “stop, drop and roll” if their clothing catches on fire. Firefighter Caleb Melton, after attending the annual firefighter’s convention in College Station, became a certified fire prevention clown last year.

This year, the team also includes “Firefighter Herb,” a puppet voiced by Matt Brown; firefighter Forrest Densmore took over as sound system operator; and firefighter Andy Endsley, the “straight man” to the others’ clowning antics. Sometimes, members of HCFPT also speak on request to adult groups as well. For example, they talked to parents and teachers at the health education session hosted at Bowie Elementary by Sulphur Springs Independent School District health and physical education teachers last month. Even Chief Carl Nix occasionally assists.

The team, guided by firefighter Herb Scott, built back props and a reworked a donated scooter to form a fire truck with working lights and horns for the clowns to maneuver during the fire safety program for children. They also are able to utilize an enclosed trailer donated in memory of Matt and Chance Ringler to get their equipment to and from the schools. Joyce Nix of Creations by Joyce, assisted with the clown clothes.

Utilizing the clowns, puppet and props, Hopkins County firefighters entertain children while teaching them about fire safety in the home, the proper use of 911, exit drills. Hopkins County Fire Investigator Steve Caudle uses his own arson detection dog Charlie to demonstrate how to “stop, drop and roll” to extinguish a fire.

They hope to continue adding to the program each years, and are currently working on a “safe house trailer” they hope to complete this year. The 30 foot trailer was donated by Hopkins County Sheriff’s Office so that it could be remodeled to suit the fire prevention program needs. The plan is to include stadium seating, a sound system, smoke machines, heated doors and other touches to simulate a house involved in smoke so children will see first hand the fire safety tips in play.

This year’s children’s show teaches about smoke alarms, reminding the importance of changing batteries twice a year and monthly tests; 911, what to do if you have an emergency, and what to say when calling; matches, tools not toys; cooling a burn; stop, drop and roll; exit drills in the home, a fire prevention plan; having a meeting place; and firefighting gear, what a firefighter looks like in full gear, what it does and not to be afraid of firefighters.

Hopkins County Fire Prevention Team invites the public to “feel free to stop and visit with the team and other firefighters at the new Hopkins County Fire Station, located at 1286 Texas St. next to UPS.”

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