By Zak Lantz
Of The Spirit
ANITA — The week of Oct. 7-13 has been designated National Fire Prevention Week, and Friday, firefighters from the McCalmont Township Volunteer Fire Company treated the students at Parkview Elementary School to a special program about fire prevention safety.
Six different members from the department — Assistant Chief Chris Porada, Captain Kevin Toven, Pete Mohney, Blaine Heckman, Justine Foster and Derek Toven — gave an interactive presentation to the children, grades K-3, teaching them the importance of knowing what to do in case of a fire.
The beginning of the program was spearheaded by Porada — lovingly known as "Critter" to the kids, teachers and firefighters — as he began by teaching the kids the importance of staying away from matches, candles, lighters and other sources that could easily start an accidental fire.
"I've been doing these for 22 years; we've been doing it here at Parkview for at least 15 years," Porada said. "It's all about educating the kids. That's what we're striving for. We have yet to have a fire caused by a child (in McCalmont Township) since we started the program here. Obviously, some of the stuff we're educating them about is getting through."
Porada gave the students a step-by-step procedure for escaping in the case that they are awakened by a smoke detector — including staying low to the ground; checking doors for heat before opening them; finding a safe, pre-designated place to meet family members outside; and staying near a window and yelling for help if there's no way out.
He even invited a volunteer — Davey Hallman — up to give the other students a demonstration of how the firefighters — decked out in full gear along with Parkview teacher Beverly Keeley — would rescue them in case of a fire.
"We try to make it fun for the kids, but they're learning at the same time," Porada said. "We do these presentations any time we can, because we realize how important this education is for kids."
Porada also emphasized and reiterated the importance of not going back into a burning building under any circumstances to the children.
Then, Foster took over for her portion of the presentation and, along with the help of volunteer Rachel Houser, presented the proper technique to "stop, drop and roll" in case one's clothing catches fire.
Kevin Toven then spoke briefly to the students about the importance of having a carbon monoxide detector in their homes, explaining why the unnoticeable gas can be so dangerous.
After the presentation, the firefighters opened the session for questions — most of which focused on what types of animals the firefighters had encountered and rescued in their firefighting.
The firefighters also filled the students in on some of the other things they do, including going to car accidents and responding to medical calls (QRS).
To conclude the program, the teachers held a drawing for a stuffed dalmatian for a student to take home — a drawing won by Lilly Houser, a kindergarten student.
After that, the students returned to their rooms, where the firefighters went room-to-room distributing the smoke detectors and batteries, along with other goodies such as flashlights to help ensure the kids' safety.
"Every new kid to the presentation gets a smoke detector, and every year after that we give them new batteries," Porada said. "If any new students come to the school later — like in first or second grade — we give them a detector too, in addition to the kindergarteners."
Because of the rainy weather, the students weren't able to head outside to check out and have their pictures taken with the fire trucks, but Porada promised the students that the department would do its best to bring the trucks to the end-of-the-year picnic at the school.
Porada said the neat thing about doing this program is that it gives the children an opportunity to teach their parents in a way and to remember the importance of fire safety.
"It gives the kids an opportunity to teach their parents," he said.
"When your child comes home and says, 'I have a smoke detector. Let's put it up,' it makes the parents think about it and gives them a chance to talk about fire safety as a family."