The Dickinson Fire Department’s annual Fire Prevention Week will take place at nine elementary schools from Oct. 7-11 and will focus on educating children from kindergarten to second grade about fire prevention and safety techniques.
The enterprise will conclude with a Neighborhood Visit at the Biesiot Activities Center on Oct. 15 at 5 p.m., where community members can meet the fire department and children can ride in the fire engines in addition participating in other fun, educational exercises.
Visiting over 1400 Dickinsonian children in five days is a huge undertaking, but given the importance of the task, Dickinson’s Fire Marshal Mark Selle is more than prepared.
“We’ve changed our program in the past few years,” Selle told The Press Friday, Oct. 4. “We used to have schools come to the station, but we weren’t getting all the kids. We’d probably see probably about half the amount of kids and it would take us three or four weeks. Now, we’re able to get more kids the message so that they can keep themselves safe.
“All kids, K through five, will get a fire safety book that is donated from local businesses before we come,” he added. “Then we come and try to give them that next level of education. So with the books they’re given in school, what we teach them in school and the books we give them to take home, hopefully we bring that message home.”
These age-appropriate books, which are filled with games, puzzles and activities, allow children to learn about fire prevention without realizing it.
For younger kids, such as those in kindergarten, the presentations will focus mainly on smoke alarms and fire drills; first and second grade students will be shown the stop, drop and roll technique in addition to these topics.
“Sometimes, it can be scary for kids to see all the stuff we wear,” Selle said of his department’s equipment; this apprehension prompted the DFP to include showing the children a fully-geared firefighter during its visits to schools with the hope that the kids begin to feel more comfortable with the helmeted figures.
Each school’s fire prevention program will also include a special appearance by Sparky the Fire Dog, the department’s official mascot and a fan favorite for kids.
“By instilling this message early into the kids and then building on it over the years, hopefully we’ll reduce fire throughout the whole community,” Selle said. “I’ve seen these kids grow up over my career. It’s fun to see where they’re at and where they’re going. Hopefully, we’re making a positive impact on their lives.
“The biggest thing about fire prevention is getting people to practice their drills and get their devices working,” Selle concluded.
“We’re here to help and keep people safe, but the best thing a fire service can do is prevent the fire, not just put it out.”