NEW CUMBERLAND, Pa. –
From Oct. 8-10, 1871, fire ripped through urban Chicago, killing approximately 300 people and leaving thousands homeless. Forty years later, on the anniversary of what became known as the Great Chicago Fire, the Fire Marshals Association North America sponsored the first National Fire Prevention Day as a way of educating the general public about practices and procedures involving fire hazards. Today the second week of October is federally recognized as Fire Prevention Week throughout the United States and Canada.
It has become customary for most fire departments to visit public schools during Fire Prevention Week in order to acquaint children with the dangers of fire. For the Defense Logistics Agency Installation Management Susquehanna Fire Department, the closest thing to a school is the on-base Child Development Center, a day care and prekindergarten facility. So, 25 pre-K students were treated to a tour of the firehouse Oct. 10.
“Yesterday we were in the classroom,” says Johnathan Olewine, inspector with the DLA Installation Management Susquehanna Fire Department. “Today it was a tour of the fire station so the children could see the fire apparatus and, since we live here, they also got to see our living quarters and where we make our food and that kind of stuff.”
As a father with children of his own, Olewine knows how difficult it can be to hold the attention of children so young, however years of experience has taught him what works and what doesn’t.
“They’re not very attentive, so we try to just cover the basics,” says Olewine. “The firehose is good because they can get their hands on it and help us put it together and spray the nozzle. I usually try to open all the compartments (on the truck) and I try to get a firefighter to dress out in full turn-out gear with a self-contained breathing apparatus so that they understand and know what they look like and know that they’re not scary, they’re actually there to help if they are in a fire.”
In addition to the yearly pre-K tour, Olewine says the department also visits the child care facility itself along with other high-profile buildings, handing out educational information and answering questions of children and adults alike.
Tomorrow we’re going to take a firetruck and Sparky the Fire Dog over to the preschool children so that they get to see a firetruck,” he says. “I enjoy doing this – it’s great. For the next three weeks when I see these children they’re going to say, ‘Hey you! You’re the fire guy!’ So it’s real fun and it’s exciting to see that they actually remember everything you teach them, at least for a while.”