In Oct. 1929, Mrs. Edna Stewart, a popular local teacher asked then Fire Chief Ossie Ball if she could bring school children to the firehouse to learn about preventing fires.
Chief Ball thought it a good idea and he offered to give the children a ride on the fire truck. The Fire Prevention Program has been part of the local elementary school curriculum since that time. Several years later the California Department of Education officials came from Sacramento to observe the program and these days schools and fire departments across the nation have fire prevention programs.
Local firefighters are especially promoting kitchen safety as part of their curriculum for children in kindergarten through fifth-grade, according to Patterson/West Stanislaus Division Chief Jeff Gregory.
Over 5,000 students will see the importance of staying away from hot stoves, finding two ways out of a house in case of a fire, how to call 911, how to stop, drop and roll and more.
“We’re also stressing the importance of not going back into the house once the (smoke) detector has gone off and (children) have exited,” Gregory said, Tuesday, Oct. 15. “The toys can be replaced.”
Firefighters are also reminding folks of the importance of checking batteries in their smoke detectors.
The firefighters are passing out activity books and coloring books to the children that are specific to their age and grade, Gregory said.
The fire departments had visited six schools as of Tuesday, Oct. 15 and will continue with another four schools between Grayson, Patterson and Newman before November 1.
Fire Protection Month is generally celebrated in Fire Prevention Week, which takes place in the second week of October each year to coincide with the anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Estimates at the time reached more than 300 people dead in the fire and more than 100,000 of the city’s 300,000 were left homeless. The fire destroyed more than four square miles of the city, two-thirds of which was made up of wooden structures at the time.
The damage encompassed more than 2,000 acres and destroyed more than 73 miles of roads, 120 miles of sidewalk, 2,000 lampposts, 17,500 buildings, and $222 million in property—about a third of the city's valuation.
President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the first National Fire Prevention Week on October 4 though 10, 1925.
Contact Nick Rappley at 892-6187, ext. 31 or firstname.lastname@example.org.