BEND AREA — According to the latest statistics, seven people die each day in the United States from house fires.
A total of 600 children die per year, and 60 percent of fatal fires occur in homes without smoke detectors.
Firefighters with the New Haven and Mason, W.Va., fire departments were working hard this week to make sure the Bend Area does not add to those statistics.
Fire Prevention Week is being observed Oct. 9-15, with the slogan “Don’t Wait – Check the Date! Replace Smoke Alarms Every 10 Years.” On Wednesday, over 500 students from New Haven Elementary School made their way through the New Haven fire station to learn about fire safety.
Catchy phrases like “Stop, Drop and Roll,” and “Stay Low and Go,” teach the youngsters effective ways to extinguish a fire on their clothing and how to escape a house filled with smoke. After instructions, the children try their hand at escaping a simulated smoke-filled room in the fire department’s educational trailer.
Also demonstrated is the firefighter’s suit and equipment. Firemen walk through the rows of students to show what they look like and how they sound in full gear. The students are told repeatedly to not be afraid of, or hide from, the firemen.
Manning Roe, assistant chief with the New Haven department, said the program has been ongoing since the 1980s. A safety employee with the Gavin plant, he, along with Lisa Gangwer of AEP, and several junior firefighters made presentations.
Roe said the fire prevention program is something both departments feel is important, and even with recent budget cuts, have vowed to continue. He added it takes much combined effort and work among the firefighters to make it happen.
Donations from the power company, Thompson’s Hardware in New Haven, and the county school board help provide each kindergarten student with a free smoke detector. Every child receives a bag that contains information for parents on how to make escape plans, as well as stickers and activity books for the student.
Roe said the department also takes the fire safety program out of the area when requested. Gangwer said a young girl in another county where they had made the presentation was able to safely guide her grandparents out of a recent house fire. When asked how she was able to do that, she replied, “I did what the fireman told me to do.”
And Roe and Gangwer said that is what validates the program.
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing who lives in Mason County.