LISA YATES PHOTO Belvidere Republican
Firefighter Aaron Pihl tells the kids about the equipment firefighters wear.

October is Fire Safety Month, in recognition of the Great Chicago Fire, which took place Oct. 8-10, 1871.

The Belvidere Fire Department is continuing to observe Fire Safety Month with its “No 2nd Grader Left Behind” program, when they visit every second-grade class and teach the kids about fire safety. In normal times, the firefighters bring their Smoke House trailer to the school and talk with the kids about kitchen safety. Then the kids go into the second room of the trailer and a little ‘smoke’ is released so the kids have to “escape the fire” through the window.

With classes being held remotely, the firefighters are unable to interact with the kids in the Smoke House, so their presentation has altered to one of the other class presentations they often use. In this one, firefighters show the kids the gear they wear to fight fires.

The gear covers them from head to foot, including a full face mask and oxygen. To a child who may already be somewhat panicked because of a fire, seeing a ‘monster’ appear out of the smoke might be frightening. By showing the kids the pieces of their gear and letting the kids watch them put it on, the kids can learn that this intimidating ‘monster’ is actually a friend who has come to help them escape the scary fire.

“Their faces are neat to see,” said teacher Mrs. Lisa Yates of Lincoln Elementary School, “when the firefighters put on their gear. I don’t think they’ve ever seen a firefighter in full gear. The firefighters did a very nice job, especially considering the technical aspect (via remote learning on the computer).”

Firefighter Mark Beck said, “I talked to the kids prior to the demonstration and explained about calling 9-1-1 in an emergency for appropriate reasons; Stop, Drop, and Roll in case you get on fire; don’t play with matches or lighters; crawl out under the smoke if there is a fire; and have your parents check the batteries on your smoke detectors.”

Then firefighter Aaron Pihl discussed the different pieces of the gear we wear during a fire: “We can’t breath smoke either, but we have a mask and oxygen. Our gear weighs an extra 50 to 60 pounds but it helps keep us safer during a fire.”

“One child asked what tools we carry,” said Beck. “I told him we carry an axe so we can break a window or a door. It’s kind of weird because we don’t have the direct interaction with the second-graders that we are used to having.”

The Belvidere Fire Department is currently putting together several videos to place on their YouTube channel.

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