PERU — The Dixfield Fire Department continued their tour of schools in the River Valley on Thursday morning, visiting Dirigo Elementary School to teach students about fire safety and prevention.

Capt. Jason Hyde of the Dixfield Fire Department led a presentation about how to react if a fire were to start inside of a house.

“It’s important that you and your family have a meeting spot in case you get separated,” Hyde said. “Let’s say that you get to your meeting place and your mom and dad aren’t there. Do you run back into the house to look for them?”

The students all yelled “no.”

“Exactly,” Hyde said. “You let one of the firefighters know that you can’t find your parents and we’ll go in and find them.”

Hyde asked for two volunteers to demonstrate how loud a fire can sound to a firefighter. Third-grader Dalton Rouille came to the front of the room as Hyde dressed him in firefighter gear too big for him. The students laughed as Hyde placed the jacket and the suspenders around Rouille’s shoulders.


“You look like Steve Urkel,” one student yelled, drawing laughter from the rest of the students.

Hyde blindfolded Rouille, spun him around a few times and told him to get on his knees.

“OK, now I want the rest of you to start clapping and talking while Dalton tries to crawl around and find the student who needs help,” Hyde said.

Across the room, another student was standing in the corner, yelling, “Help!”

Rouille began crawling forward as the rest of the students began clapping as loud as they could. When it came time for students to ask questions, much of the focus was on what to do with their pets if their house caught fire.

“Pets are smart enough to get themselves out of the house,” Hyde said. “If you have a cat or dog sitting in your lap, that’s fine, but I always tell people if it takes you more than three seconds to grab your animal, leave it behind. They’ll find their way out.”


Another student asked Hyde what to do in the case of smaller animals, such as hamsters or ferrets.

“We can get the caged animals,” Hyde said. “The most important thing is that you guys get out safe.”

Hyde said many of the demonstrations he set up this year are different than previous years.

“I’m always trying to change and adapt the program to suit what the kids need,” he said. “I try to mix up what I show them so they’re not getting the same presentation year after year. I’ve really been pushing the danger of playing with matches and lighters, because we’ve had a lot of issues with that lately.”

Outside, firefighter Shawn MacFarlane, Peru fire Chief Bill Hussey and firefighter Ian Fortin led students on a tour of their trucks, discussing their features and showing the tools used to get into a burning building.

Students, however, were drawn to the space beside the trucks, where Hussey and Fortin each had a fire hose the students were allowed to try out.


MacFarlane, who is participating in the fire safety and prevention week for the second consecutive year, said he always has a great time visiting the students.

“The kids love being able to see the firetrucks up close and test out the hoses,” he said. “I think visiting the kids helps by making them less afraid of firefighters. Sometimes, if a kid sees us on the street in our full gear, they may be a little freaked out, but visiting them at school gives us a chance to show there’s nothing to be afraid of.

“I really think this helps prevent fires with younger children,” MacFarlane said. “The number of fires with children involved are down from previous years, and I think the information sticks.”

Hussey said schools help spread the knowledge of fire safety and prevention.

“The fact that they’re letting us come in like this and teach them is a huge thing,” he said.

The Dixfield Fire Department will visit Dirigo Elementary School again Friday to continue teaching fire safety and prevention.

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