Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Fort Carson Mountaineer

Fire Prevention Week: Firefighters educate, raise awareness

Students demonstrate how to stop, drop, cover the face and roll with Sparky, the fire department mascot, as emergency services personnel look on, Oct. 10 at the Weikel Elementary School gymnasium.

Story and photo by Staff Sgt. Wallace Bonner

4th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office

“Have two ways out” was the key phrase used by firefighters all around post as they engaged Soldiers, Families and community members about fire safety Oct. 7-13.

“This is our time to shine,” said Rob Wuchner, inspector, Fort Carson Fire Emergency Services. “If we can prevent just one child or adult from doing something hazardous, then we’ve done a great job.”

According to the National Fire Protection Association, Fire Prevention Week commemorates the 1871 Great Chicago Fire, which started Oct. 8, and during a two-day period, killed 250 people and left 100,000 homeless.

The observance began as a single day, proclaimed by President Woodrow Wilson on Oct. 9, 1920, and became a weeklong event in 1922. Fire Prevention Week has been proclaimed annually by every president since 1925.

The Fort Carson fire department’s activities included an information booth at the Exchange with pamphlets, tools for the house, toys for the children and emergency services personnel present to answer questions and promote fire safety awareness. Members of the department also talked at school assemblies, which included a demonstration of a firefighter getting into his gear and a visit by Sparky, the fire department mascot, to demonstrate the proper way to stop, drop, cover your face and roll, and how to stay low when exiting the house.

Fire drills at places on post such as child development centers were also conducted.

Wuchner said the intent of this year’s theme, “Have two ways out,” was to get Families to focus on safety for the children, ensuring that they know how to get out of the house and to have accountability by arranging for a place outside the house to meet in the event of a fire.

He said they were also teaching children how to stop, drop, cover their faces and roll.

“We modified the ‘stop, drop and roll’ you practiced as a kid, because we noticed that a lot of children forget to protect themselves from smoke and suffer from smoke inhalation damage.”

Safety practices in the home were also addressed.

“The biggest cause of fire in homes is unattended cooking,” said Wuchner.

Wuchner said that wildfire safety was also an important topic locally, with the recent Waldo Canyon Fire.

“With climate changes, a wildfire can happen at any time now; be prepared, Wuchner said. “If you have to evacuate, don’t wait for the evacuation order.

“Ensure you have your important paperwork, photos and prescriptions. Have a change of clothes, and a place to go.”

Wuchner also stressed the importance of providing specific information when calling emergency services.

“The biggest thing when calling for help is (telling dispatch) where you are. Building numbers and street corners are great,” said Wuchner. “We don’t own cell phone towers, so you need to give an address when calling on Fort Carson. You’re most likely going to go to Colorado Springs dispatch, who will transfer you to the on-post emergency services.”

The chance to take part in Fire Prevention Week was appreciated by the firefighters from all six post fire stations.

“We interact with the community on a regular basis, but typically through calls and emergency services,” said Michael Milar, firefighter, Station 31, which is located on Wetzel Avenue. “This is an opportunity to reach out and educate them in a non-emergency situation.

“I think the planners do a great job of getting the message across at places like schools, day cares and public places like the Exchange,” said Milar.

The booth at the Exchange was placed at the main entrance, where adults and children alike were able to see what the fire department had to offer.

“I think (Fire Prevention Week) is tremendously important,” said Capt. Desiree Ledan, executive officer, Army Field Support Battalion, Army Sustainment Command. “It’s going to save a lot of lives.”

The firefighters also enjoyed having the various people stopping by.

“My favorite thing is the kids; giving them the stuff that makes them happy,” said Johanne Durbin, paramedic and firefighter, Station 31. “Hopefully, they will want to learn more about making themselves safe.”

Another message that dominated Fire Prevention Week was the importance of Family members talking about fire safety.

“If you don’t have a plan for when your house burns down, you’ll have more of a casualty than just a house,” said Durbin.

Visit http://www.nfpa.org for more information on fire prevention.

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