After visiting Seymour Fire Department headquarters Thursday, more than 50 kindergartners from Seymour-Jackson Elementary School know more about fire safety and the men who get to ride on the big red firetruck.

Annually, kindergarten classes from all public and private schools in Seymour visit the fire station during October, which is National Fire Prevention Month.

But teaching children about fire safety begins much earlier and continues long after students complete kindergarten, Fire Chief Brad Lucas said.

“We start by taking the firetruck to the preschools, where we teach them about stop, drop and roll,” Lucas said. “When they get to kindergarten, they get to come visit us at the fire station, and we can point out things like smoke detectors and fire extinguishers and show them what our gear looks like.”

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During the visit, students toured the station on East Street and learned it really is more of a firehouse because the firefighters live there for 24-hour shifts.

Leading Thursday’s tour was firefighter Clint Hackman.

“We have a living room where we all come to hang out and watch TV and a kitchen where we cook and eat together and a bedroom where we sleep,” he told students. “We also have a room where we exercise because we have to stay strong to be able to put out fires and rescue people.”

In all, about 400 kindergarten students in Seymour will visit the fire station this month, and about 3,000 students in kindergarten through fifth grade will receive fire safety education. The fire department takes its fire safety simulation trailer to the schools for fourth-graders to learn safe ways to evacuate a home that is on fire.

One of the highlights for the kindergartners was meeting Fire Pup, the department’s mascot. After being awakened from a nap in the firetruck, Fire Pup helped Hackman remind students not to touch lighters or matches, to make sure there are working smoke detectors at their homes and to always let adults use fire extinguishers.

‘Have to be strong’

Christian Moore, 6, said he was excited about becoming a special deputy firefighter for the day after receiving a red plastic firefighter’s hat, a sticker badge and an apple. He even got to demonstrate how to stop, drop and roll.Although he already knew the basics about fire safety, Christian said, he didn’t know firefighters had to wear so much heavy gear and equipment when fighting a fire.

“They have to be strong,” he said. “I’m going to be a firefighter and be able to carry five hoses at once, one in my teeth.”

Devin Weddle, 6, said his favorite part of the tour was getting to see the firetruck and Fire Pup.

Seymour isn’t the only fire department reaching out to kids this month with the message of fire safety. Programs also have been conducted in Brownstown and Crothersville.

At Brownstown Elementary School, after watching a video about smoke alarms, students followed Brownstown Volunteer Fire Department personnel outside to two firetrucks. There, they learned about the tools of the trade and had an opportunity to see the inside of the trucks.

Before showing the video, Lt. Blake Peters told students smoke alarms should be tested once a month and batteries should be changed once a year. He also said every home should have several smoke alarms, and they should be high on a wall or ceiling because smoke rises.

Peters said the No. 1 cause of house fires is cooking-related. He told the students they should stay at least 3 feet away from a hot stove, and they should only cook when their parents are present.

He said every household should have two ways to escape in the event of a fire and a designated meeting place outside. And when dialing 911, you should be prepared to give your phone number and address and tell what has happened.

Second-grade teacher Sharon Pottschmidt said it was good to reinforce that message with the students.

“I think it helps kids to go home and talk to their parents about an escape plan because lots of kids don’t have that,” she said. “Then they go home and at least practice and talk about it and are having awareness with their families at home.”

‘That can be scary’

After the video, Mike Weiler showed how firefighters have two minutes to don all of their gear, which weighs 20 to 30 pounds.One purpose of the demonstration was so students know what firefighters look like with gear on so they aren’t scared.

“We don’t want you guys to be scared of us when we come in your house,” Peters said. “We don’t want you guys to run from us and go hide underneath your bed.”

Pottschmidt also thought that was a good lesson.

“With them being younger, to see a fireman suited up, they are not used to seeing that because that can be scary for kids,” she said. “It’s good that they see the fireman is our friend. They are coming to help us. And they may look scary in their equipment, but they are there to help you.”

Outside, Lt. Brad Barker showed students the main pumper truck, which is used to put out structure fires. He said it holds about 1,000 gallons of water, and the compartments include airpacks, various tools and a vent fan, which is used to remove smoke from a building.

“It’s really, really hard to see in a house that’s burning, whether it’s daylight or dark, whether you have a flashlight or not,” Barker said. “Even though you’ve got a nice, clear shield over your face, most of the time, you can’t even see your hand if you put it right (in front of your face). The smoke gets so thick.”

The students then learned about a rescue truck, which is used for medical calls and wrecks. Barker showed the students red blocks and a high-pressure air bag, which are placed underneath vehicles to lift them up, and Jaws of Life tools that are used to lift or cut vehicles.

‘They help people’

The day ended with students walking through the back part of the pumper truck’s cab and taking class pictures in front of the firetruck.Second-grader Jamison McFarlane said that, after listening to the firefighters, he might consider firefighting as a career.

“Because they help people,” he said.

Weiler said his favorite part of the visit was answering students’ questions.

“You never know what you’re going to get,” he said, smiling. “I love for them to ask questions. By the time they are in fourth grade, they can answer our questions with no problems. It’s fun to see that the older kids, you ask a question and they are like, ‘Hey, I know the answer.’”

At Crothersville Elementary School, with the lights out in a classroom, two Crothersville-Vernon Township Volunteer Fire Department firefighters crawled along the floor and used the light on their helmets to guide them. The purpose was to simulate what they would do if they were responding to a smoke-filled structure.

“Just teaching the kids not to be afraid of us is the biggest thing,” Lt. Logan Isenhower said. “You wouldn’t believe how scared kids are after we put airpacks on. With all the noise and flashing lights, it scares kids into not yelling for us or they will hide from us.”

Isenhower said firefighters discussed fire safety, did a fire drill with the whole school and talked to fourth-graders. They also let students go through the firetrucks and allowed one to try on a firefighter’s coat to see how heavy it is.

“Kids will not forget you,” he said. “They see us on the street, and they remember our names. So if they can do that, it makes me feel like I might have left some valuable information in their heads.”

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Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.