PERU — The Dixfield Fire Department visited Dirigo Elementary School on Thursday morning to speak about fire safety and prevention.
Capt. Jason Hyde said that normally, he and other Dixfield firefighters bring the students outside for a tour of the ladder trucks and the opportunity to use the fire hose. However, because of inclement weather, the fire safety and prevention presentation had to be moved indoors.
Sixteen prekindergarten students gathered in a downstairs alcove to listen to firefighters discuss important fire safety and prevention tips.
Maine Forest Ranger Jay Bernard spoke to the students about how he fights fires that happen in the woods.
“I also come around to schools and speak to students about preventing a fire from happening in the first place,” he said. “I teach them all about the different rules to follow when outside so we don’t burn down our trees, because our tress are important. Don’t you agree?”
The students nodded in agreement.
“How many of you play with lighters or matches?” he asked.
A majority of the students did not raise their hands; one student said he did.
“Well, from now on, don’t do that,” Bernard said. “We don’t want to be starting fires, whether it’s in your house or in the woods.”
Later, Hyde spoke to students about important phrases they should remember, including “stop, drop and roll,” “get out, stay out,” and “stay low and go.”
Hyde and officer Dan Carrier focused on the “get out, stay out” mantra.
“Let me ask you this,” Carrier said. “If your fire alarm starts going out, are you going to look for your pets?”
Some students shook their heads no, while others nodded.
“No, you’re not going to look for them,” Carrier said. “That’s what we’re there for. You’re going to get out of the house as fast as you can. If there’s anyone still in the house once you’re outside, you’re not going to run back in. When we get there, we’ll go inside and find your animals or your siblings.”
Carrier also urged students to go to a neighbor’s house for help if their parents weren’t available.
In an effort to teach the prekindergarten students that firefighters who were fully equipped and wearing their oxygen masks were nothing to be afraid of, they had firefighter Ian Fortin dress up in full firefighter gear.
“Do you think I’m scary yet?” Fortin asked the students, talking through the ‘whoosh’ of the oxygen tank.
The children all shook their heads.
“Do you want to give me a high-five?” Fortin asked, leaning forward with his hand outstretched.
The students laughed and ran forward to give Fortin a high-five.
Hyde said he finds that starting fire safety and prevention at an early age has a huge effect on the children later in their life.
“When I went into the third grade class this year, I saw a lot of kids were kids I had spoken to when they were in pre-K,” Hyde said. “I walked in and told them, ‘You tell me everything that you know about fire,’ and for the first 10 minutes, they went through everything they knew. It’s really incredible to see.”