Source: Daily Hampshire Gazette (Northampton, MA)
By SEAN REAGAN
CHESTERFIELD, MA – At New Hingham Elementary School, fire safety is fun. Joined by members of the Goshen and Chesterfield fire and police departments, the students celebrated the sixth annual SAFE (Student Awareness of Fire Education) Fire Safety Day with musters, crafts, safety skill drills and a visit from Smokey Bear.
They look forward to this all year, said Goshen firefighter Sue Labrie, as she watched students filing into the gymnasium. ”Anything that we can do that’s hands-on with kids means that they’re going to learn better.”
Labrie, one of several parents and volunteers who organizes and conducts the day long event held June 7, said that teaching students the basics of fire safety was critical in reducing the number of accidental fires as well as fire-related injuries. ”If you get to them right from the start, they remember it and they can use it,” she said.
Behind the school, some of the students participated in a muster – a timed race that required them to don firefighter suits, hose down a blaze, strap a victim to a stretcher and carry him over the finish line.
”I think it’s pretty neat,” said fourth grader Brian Tennyson of Goshen after he finished the drill. ”It’s fun because you get to run around. Getting the buckles on the jacket right while you’re trying to get to the hose is hard.”
Robert Labrie, who is married to Sue Labrie, hosted the muster with frequent calls of encouragement. He said that the drill, while fun, also related to the real world of fighting fires.
”Typically, the beeper goes off in the middle of the night and you don’t know what you’re doing,” Robert Labrie, a Goshen firefighter, said. ”All that matters is getting to where the fire is.”
”It’s a lot of work,” conceded fourth grader Will Dastous of Goshen, wiping sweat from his brow. ”It’s fun but it’s hard.”
Gil Loud, a forest fire patrolman with District 10 Forest Fire Control, watched the students mingle with Smokey Bear after they serenaded him with ”Happy Birthday.” Smokey turns 60 in August.
”This is such a great event,” said Loud. ”Chesterfield and Goshen always do a fantastic job with this.”
Loud estimated that 75 percent of forest fires are preventable using common sense and echoed Sue Labrie’s comment that educating children early was one of the best ways to minimize accidental fires and fire-related injuries.