December 6, 2021

Learning fire safety early

Youngsters visit Cortland station as part for Fire Prevention Week

Photos by Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

YMCA Headstart students from left, Ryker Wood, Dominic Santos, Aleiyah Allington, Anna Ingrahm, Sophie Tedeschi-Guinta, and Neo Morris get a lesson in firefighting from Cortland Fire Department’s Travis Marshall on Wednesday in Cortland.

As 4-year-year old Leeland Hill stood against the Cortland City Fire Truck’s wheels, his eyes lit in amazement and his parents laughed. The wheels were just about as tall as he was.

Hill was one of more than 20 students from the YMCA’s Headstart program to attend a tour and educational program at the city fire station on Court Street on Wednesday as part of Fire Prevention Week.

“I like sitting in the truck,” he said. From Sunday through Saturday, fire stations across the U.S. held open houses, educational programs and tours to teach people about fire safety. This year’s theme was: “Look. Listen. Learn.”

In 1925 President Calvin Coolidge declared the week a national observance and it’s been the longest running public health observance since then, according to the National Fire Prevention Association. It is always held the week of Oct. 9 to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire, which began on Oct. 8, 1871, and killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures, and burned more than 2,000 acres of land.

The Cortland Fire Department also visited the elementary schools for breakfast and educational programming on mornings during the week. Firefighters also did tours for kids and held an open house on Saturday at the station, where people participated in an obstacle course, learned cardiopulmonary resuscitation, got fire safety materials and enjoyed snacks.

Sitting in a fire truck was just one of the many activities the kids got to participate in Wednesday.

Two groups took turns watching a Barney the dinosaur video that explained smoke detectors and other fire safety protocols and then they learned about the fire trucks, all the firefighter’s gadgets and their uniforms. Students learned that a fire truck can hold about 1,000 gallons of water, enough to fill a bathtub 12 times.

They also discovered that when firefighters are battling a fire, their oxygen tanks can last 12 to 15 minutes and that the trucks have to be plugged in to charge the various electronic devices on them.

“Just like the backpack you brought to school today, this is my backpack, except it doesn’t have lunch,” firefighter Travis Marshall said about the air tanks.

Fire safety tips

• Have an escape plan that accounts for at least two ways out of a building and practice twice a year.
• Have a meeting place during emergencies.
• If there’s a grease fire, cover the pan with a lid and turn off the stove. Do not use water to put out the fire.
• Check fire detectors every month and have one in every bedroom and main room of your home.

Source: National Fire Prevention Association

As for fire safety, Marshall said the most important thing to account for is smoke detectors.

“Smoke detectors save lives,” he said. Fire departments remind people to change the batteries in their detectors twice a year, usually when people switch the time on their clocks.

Firefighter Nate Krause taught them that when they hear a smoke detector go off, they need to exit the building as safely as possible.

“You need to know that when you’re home and the smoke detector goes off — beep, beep — you have to stop playing with your toys or eating and go outside,” Krause said. “Once you’re out of the building, you stay out.”

Krause said people should not go back inside to save other people or their pets.

“That’s our job to go in and find them,” he said.