Fire safety for all ages

By Ryn Gargulinski: QCS

Never mind the sirens, the ladder or the fire truck itself, most of the preschoolers outside Tucumcari Elementary at Thursday’s fire department demonstration said they were enamored with the hose.

“They like the water,” preschool teacher Sandy Bowen said while kids lined up for a chance to hold and spray the hose themselves. “This year they reduced the pressure on the hose so kids can hold it better,” she said, adding, “This is a lot of fun.”

“We do this every year in honor of Fire Prevention Week, which was actually last week,” said 20-year veteran of the department Deputy Fire Chief Larry Rigdon. “We’ve been doing this forever.”

Rigdon said in addition to the outdoor demonstration – which includes a tour of the gear truck, the ambulance and a rundown of all the fire truck’s equipment – the department gives the morning and afternoon classes an indoor presentation on fire prevention.

“That’s the objective we’re after,” Rigdon said. “To teach them a little about fire safety, what we do and what gear we use,” he added, saying one of the fire fighters always dresses up in full fire fighting regalia.

“This way when the kids do see us coming if they do have a fire they won’t be scared,” Rigdon said. “The gear looks kind of monstrous – like Darth Vadar – we want them to know we’re the good guys, not the bad guys.”

Preschooler Stewart Mills thought the fire fighters so good, in fact, he said he wants to be one when he grows up. “I want my mom and dad to be a fireman, too,” he said.
Some of the tips Rigdon said they shared with the kids were a lowdown on smoke detectors and the infamous “stop, drop and roll” technique.

A Web site featuring a prevention campaign ( also gives tips on what to check for in the home. The site says fire hazards include overloaded sockets, worn electric wires, dangerous wiring marked by fuses that blow for no reason or flickering bulbs, and improper disposal of ashtrays.

The site also advises on ways to stay prepared for an emergency, such as always keeping keys in the same location and keeping escape routes clear of furniture and debris.

The U.S. Fire Administration Web site says fires kill more than 4,000 Americans and injure about 25,000 each year. Daily fires increase during four holiday periods – Independence Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving and the Christmas/New Year holidays. The first, of course, is due to fireworks; the site says more fires are reported on Independence Day than any other day of the year. The site says Halloween and the night before, known in some circles as Devil’s Night, are especially dangerous for suspicious structure fires. Thanksgiving and Christmas are dangerous for the massive amounts of cooking that takes place, and other winter holidays are risky because of the lighted decorations coupled with highly combustible materials like wrapping paper, pine needles and candles, the site says.

The site also states that indoor structural fires peak in winter due to heating devices, and alcohol may play a contributing role in the massive amounts of holiday fires.

Home fire tips:

-Have at least one working smoke alarm: a working smoke alarm can double chances of survival. Test it monthly and replace the batteries at least once a year.
-Prevent electrical fires: never overload circuits or extension cords. Do not place cords and wires under rugs, over nails or in high traffic areas. Immediately shut off and unplug appliances that sputter, spark or emit an unusual smell.
-Use appliances wisely: read the precautions; unplug when not in use; use safety caps to cover unused outlets, especially around small children.
-Alternate heaters: keep anything combustible at least three feet from portable heaters; keep fire in the fireplace with screens and chimney cleanings; only use kerosene heaters where approved by authorities. Never use gasoline or camp-stove fuel. Refuel outside and only after the heater has cooled.
-Use home fire safety sprinklers; many are affordable and, when used with smoke detectors, can increase survival rate. They can also increase property value and lower insurance rates.
-Have an escape plan for every room in the house: caution everyone to stay low to the floor and never open doors that are hot. Select a location where everyone can meet after escaping the house. Get out, then call for help.
-Teach children: children set over 20,000 house fires every year, many from playing with matches or lighters. Take the mystery out of fire play by teaching your children that fire is a tool, not a toy.
-Care for older people: every year more than 1,200 senior citizens die in fires. Seniors are especially vulnerable because many live alone and can’t respond quickly.

Source: U.S. Fire Administration Web site