Firefighters bring their message of safety to schools

If you want to get a first-grader’s attention, send in a firefighter. And if you really want to have him in awe, make sure the firefighter arrives in a big, red fire truck.

That was the plan last week as members of South Kitsap Fire and Rescue visited each elementary school in the South Kitsap School District for Fire Prevention Week, hoping to plant the seeds of fire safety as early as possible.

“The younger we can start teaching them, the better,” said Cliff Wilson, a battalion chief for SKF&R, explaining that the message this year was “Use Candles With Care.”

According to the State Fire Marshal’s Office, the number of fires caused by candles has risen steadily over the last decade, and the popular home decorations are a growing home fire concern.

Wilson said last year candles were to blame for 216 fires in Washington state. To prevent such fires, he said firefighters spent last week reminding adults to never leave a burning candle unattended, telling kids to never burn candles alone, and urging everyone to make sure they put out all candles before going to sleep.

To spread that safety message Friday, small groups of SK firefighters visited Manchester and East Port Orchard elementary schools, parking their fire trucks and ambulances outside for the classes to visit one at a time.

With the shiny trucks and ambulances behind them, firefighters Jennifer Steele and Chad Stanley did not have to worry about keeping the EPO first-graders in Connie Nagel’s class in rapt attention. If anything, the children were just a bit too enthusiastic.

When Steele asked if anyone in Nagel’s class had a question, every hand shot up. But when Nagel reminded her students that they were to ask a question, not tell the firefighters a story, all but two hands were lowered.

Wilson said he and the rest of the fire district’s staff didn’t mind that the students practically squirmed with excitement during each visit. He said educational visits like Friday’s were good for the department, because they give the firefighters a chance to interact with people in a much more positive situation than a fire or car accident.

“We really enjoy getting out and working with the public,” he said.

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