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Local

Fired up

County’s fire stations educate youth and communities for Fire Prevention Week

MONROE — Every major emergency vehicle parked outside Monroe Elementary School on Monday morning had the name of the the local fire station emblazoned on the doors. Well, all except one — the Newton Fire Department’s S.A.F.E. House.

Monroe Fire Chief Rob Wilson and his crew of volunteer firefighters were loaned the S.A.F.E. (Smoke and Fire Safety Education) House from their neighboring fire department in Newton to use as a first-hand educational tool for kids during Fire Prevention Week, which began Oct. 6.

Every other year, Wilson said, the Monroe fire station gets to use the S.A.F.E. House, which appears like a tiny house one might find on HGTV. Crews take the opportunity to teach children about fire safety and use the miniature home as a hands-on tool.

Using fake (or “theatrical”) smoke to quickly fill both the bottom floor and top floor rooms of the S.A.F.E. House, firefighters set off smoke detectors and tell the children how to quickly and calmly escape. Wilson often repeated the phrase “get out and stay out” to drive the message home.

“At that age, the more hands-on stuff you can do (helps and) gives them an opportunity to hear a smoke detector go off,” Wilson said, noting the S.A.F.E. House has been a longstanding tool for the fire departments around the county.

Fire Prevention Week is a busy time for local fire stations, Rex Heisdorffer, who serves as a captain, EMS coordinator and training officer of the Newton Fire Department, said. Firefighters will make regular appearances to the elementary schools with the S.A.F.E. House throughout the week.

The Newton crews take the educational course a step further by having children get out of the house and then immediately find a phone to dial 911 and relay important information to the dispatch operator, such as their name, address and a phone number.

The more today’s youth is educated on fire safety and prevention efforts, the better off and more prepared they’ll be. Which is why loaning the S.A.F.E. House to other community’s fire crews — such as Colfax, Sully, Monroe, for instance — is an important collaboration for the Newton Fire Department.

“It kind of gets jumped around and shared by everybody,” Heisdorffer said. “It’s extremely important though. We’ve identified over the years — especially in the change in moving from people having home landlines to cellphones — that a lot of kids, especially the younger kids, don’t even know their own phone number or their address even.”

Newton Mayor Mike Hansen read a Fire Prevention Week proclamation during the Monday night city council meeting, recognizing the “countless hours of fire prevention” and educational efforts conducted by firefighters and paramedics.

The proclamation “encourages all City of Newton residents to recognize the practitioners and observe this week with appropriate programs, ceremonies and activities.”

The theme of this year’s Fire Prevention Week is “Not every hero wears a cape. Plan and practice your escape.”

Fire Prevention Week ends Oct. 12.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

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