Community Education in Focus During Fire Prevention Week

| October 13, 2018

VENANGO COUNTY, Pa. (EYT) – This week is National Fire Prevention Week and local fire departments are working with schools, preschools and daycares as part of an ongoing effort to educate the public on fire safety.

Firefighters know that this is the type of educational opportunity that could save a life. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, there were a total of 112 home fire fatalities in 2017 and 98 home fire fatalities have already been reported for 2018. According to the National Fire Protection Association, children under the age of 5 and adults over the age of 65 are at the highest risk for injury or death in a fire. This is why Fire Prevention Week aims to bring awareness for fire prevention and fire safety in our communities and schools.

The Clintonville Fire Department provided a presentation on Wednesday night at the K-Mart Plaza in Reno to offer fire safety programming for free to the public. They are also visiting the Victory Elementary School as well as another public presentation at the Seneca Cranberry Mall.

All of the Clintonville Fire Department’s appearances feature their newly-acquired fire engine that they purchased this year from Unionville. The Fire Department also recently purchased all battery operated hydraulic tools. Chief Gerry Rea explained how this new technology can save time and potentially save lives. “When we show up at an accident, we don’t have to get the power unit running and hoses connected to the power unit,” Rea said. “We can just grab the tool and go with it. All we have to do is turn the button on.”

The Franklin Fire Department- Station 9 has been running programs every day this week related to fire safety, particularly in the elementary schools. Students ages 3 years old up through sixth grade visit the fire station for a tour and presentation. This includes some live exercises using the Smoke House, which simulates a real structural fire so that visitors can gain experience learning what to do in the event of a fire while in a safe, controlled setting.

Chief Jim Wetzel described how the Smoke House works during student presentations. “The Smoke House is basically a camper that is converted to look like a house in that it has a similar layout,” Wetzel said. “When they are in there with the firemen they talk about what to do in the event of an emergency. There is a smoke machine to generate smoke, the smoke detector goes off, then everyone exits building and goes to meeting place.”

Wetzel emphasized the importance of every family making sure that they have working smoke detectors and that they know what to do in the event of a fire. “If something does happen, get outside and go to the meeting place,” Wetzel emphasized. “Never go back inside.”

Wetzel also mentioned how these fire prevention programs are annual and each year the Franklin Fire Department can count on “fantastic community support”.

Another fire station working to educate the schools during Fire Prevention Week is the Oil City Fire Department- Station 14. Chief Mark Hicks says this week offers an opportunity to remind the public of the importance of fire safety before the height of fire season, which is the winter months.

“During winter, people are trying to stay warm using furnaces or other means to stay warm,” Hicks explained. “That leads to an increase in fire activity.”

Students in first, second, and fourth grade, as well as pre-K, preschool and kindergarten students, all will visit the fire station this week. First, firefighters will familiarize students with the fire apparatus and then they will go to a classroom setting within the station to watch a video produced by the Rainbow Valley Fire Department. The animated video focuses on fire prevention and how to call 911 for help if necessary. After the video, the students are given a “homework assignment” where they are asked to go home and talk to their parents about fire safety, check the smoke detectors, and create a family meeting plan.

“The biggest factor is to make sure they have working smoke detectors in their homes,” Hicks said. “That’s the number one life-saving factor that is controllable. You need them in your home and you need to make sure they are operational. Parents can’t become complacent about it. Fires can occur anywhere at home or on vacation. They need to be ready to respond.”

Hicks added that it’s also a good idea to have a fire extinguisher in the house, particularly in the kitchen where the bulk of fires began. He also warned parents who smoke about disposing of cigarette butts properly. “At the end of last year and beginning of this year we saw a rash of fires where careless cigarette butts caused structure fires,” he said.

Hicks says the Oil City Fire Department has been working with the schools since the 1970s to offer fire prevention programs and he is grateful to the support that he continues to get from the local schools. “They are always more than willing to schedule and provide buses,” he said. “That means extra time and organization on their end and we appreciate the opportunity to provide the education.”

To learn more about National Fire Prevention Week, visit the National Fire Protection Association at

Washington Twp. Volunteer Fire Department and Farmington Twp. Volunteer Fire Company visit North Clarion Elementary School for National Fire Safety Prevention Week. Photo courtesy Washington Twp. Volunteer Fire Department.

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