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Firefighting for kids

Sydney Brown learns how to use a fire hose and nozzle with the help of Hartselle firefighter Brandon Turrentine. | Clif Knight

Youth academy gives participants close-up look at public safety

Hartselle Parks & Recreation Department and Hartselle Fire & Rescue raised fire safety education for children to a higher level on Friday as co-sponsors of a hands-on Youth Fire Academy in Sparkman Park.

The two-hour event was attended by about 50 children age 12 and under, as well as about a dozen parents.

Participants learned about the turnout gear and equipment firefighters use to fight fires and emergency medical technicians use to help save lives. They also participated in hands-on activities similar to what firefighters are required to master when they attend Fire College. These included laying down and dragging fire hoses, negotiating an obstacle course, dragging a dummy to safety, locating a victim by responding to sound while blindfolded and hitting a target with a stream of water from a fire hose.

A severe weather and smoke simulator, which was borrowed from Decatur Fire and Rescue, was used to show participants what they need to know and do during a tornado warning and how to exit a room that is filled with smoke.

Joey McKinley, operations manager for County EMS, displayed equipment used in an ambulance and explained the role of an emergency medical technician in an emergency situation.

“This is our first fire safety academy but I hope it’s not our last,” said Hartselle Fire Chief Steve Shelton. “I’m tickled to have this size group of kids and impressed with the presence of so many moms and dads.

“I want to thank Hartselle Parks and Recreation personnel for planning and coordinating the academy,” he added. “Hopefully, this is something we’ll be doing for many years to come.”

“Teaching fire safety to children is something we take seriously,” he stated. “We welcome the opportunity to visit schools and our doors are always open to student groups.

“The simulator we’re using is especially helpful in stressing the important of fire safety because it is designed to look and feel like a normal home. It has a kitchen and a bedroom and since most home fires start in the kitchen and occur night it is very important to have a fire evacuation plan that is familiar to every member of the family.”

“We’re hopeful that Hartselle will be able to acquire a simulator in the near future,” he added.

“I think this training is needed to prepare our kids for an emergency,” said Maurice Stewart who attended the academy with her children, Jaci, 9, and Cade, 6. “It will help them be unafraid when an emergency occurs and enable them to know how to respond.”

Assisting Hartselle firefighters were Rock Creek volunteer firefighters David Knox and Jeff Tuttle.