IGH firefighters step up for fire prevention education

As temperatures cool and residents’ thoughts turn to recreational fires in their back yards, there are some things Inver Grove Heights firefighters are setting out to do.

At the top of the list is education.

They’ll be stepping into the city’s three public elementary schools to interact with students during the annual Fire Prevention Week, beginning Oct. 4.

According to Inver Grove Heights fire marshal Jeff Schadegg, the fire department wants to communicate with students, not only to teach them how to be safe around fires, but also to build rapport with the youngest members of the community.

“Kids don’t like to do things that make their friends upset,” Schadegg says, “and sometimes a firefighter becomes a friend over time.”

Schadegg says that if children know and trust firefighters, they will be more apt to listen to fire safety instructions.

Inver Grove Heights firefighters have specific plans for how to engage students in each grade.

“We’re actually able to get into each classroom and do different things with each grade level,” Schadegg says.

In kindergarten, he says the fire department does a program called “A Little Birdy Told Me,” which teaches basic exiting drills. In first grade they display firefighters’ gear, showing students what a firefighter would look like when rescuing someone from a fire.

For third-graders, the fire department makes mock bedrooms in the gyms, going over smoke alarms, exit drills, and the students are able to practice in the bedroom.

In fourth grade they do a junior fire inspection program, which goes over common elements that cause fires in homes, and then give the students a checklist to take home.

“In fifth grade we have a fire prevention poster contest,” Schadegg says, “which is a culmination of their fire prevention education over the years.”

He says that first prize wins $100, second wins $50, and $25. “Not bad if you’re a kid,” he adds with a laugh.

At the end of the week, the fire department will host an open house, featuring fire safety education materials, fire extinguisher demos, bouncy houses, and free hot dogs, lemonade and cookies.

The event will take place at Fire Station #3, 2059 Upper 55th St. E, Inver Grove Heights, from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 11.

“It’ll be a fun community event,” Schadegg says. “Plus, there will be fire trucks kids can crawl through.”

Jesse Poole can be reached at jpoole@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7815. Follow him at twitter.com/JPooleNews.


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