Keeping the Community Safe
By Morgan Smith
Fire Safety is something we hear about throughout our lives, starting as a staple in childhood assemblies. On Oct. 18, I was at Girdwood K-8 School at 9 a.m. to see Girdwood Volunteer Fire & Rescue (GVF&R) would teach students.
A variety of GVF&R vehicles were parked in front of the school, which was thrilling for the kids. I couldn’t help notice how excited the children were hanging on every word Lieutenant Steven Bartholomew said. Hands wave furiously in the air for a chance to answer his interactive questions and comments.
The first group of students the GVF&R spoke with were K-1 classes. If you were going to start your day off discussing fire safety with the most restless group of kids, you’d think this was it. But they did great! Attentively listening to his speech and staring at all of the cool firefighter gear, students did as instructed and followed his lead through his discussion.
Bartholomew started out with the basics of fire safety: Don’t ever play with matches or fire. He explained this summer’s there was a fire ban and how it affected our summer activities. He lightened the mood by talking about how he missed roasting marshmallows this summer, but how sacrificing campfires was an important step in us helping to prevent forest fires during dry season.
Lieutenant Bartholomew also covered helmet safety. He grabbed his bike helmet off the table and placed it on his head asking the kids what to do next. Answers filled the air. “Tighten it.” “Ok, then what? Is it done? What else do we need to do?” he asked. Playing around with the answer made the kids sit up and engage him even more. He was not only a wonderful speaker, but made it entertaining for the students.
“Clip the helmet strap closed. Right!” he exclaimed shaking his head to prove that the helmet was secured on. The students smiled at their successful answer. He then covered the need for reflective gear as the days get darker and how headlamps also made it safer when traveling in the dark. He also suggested using the glowing dog collars to help illuminate yourself, which he uses with his own family.
Next up was earthquake safety and the basics of stop, drop and cover your head. The discussion lead to what carbon monoxide detectors are and what to do if you hear one go off. Smoke detectors also included.
Bartholomew went over family meeting places to stay safe in case of these situations occurring in the home. He said if you need to rescue pets, wait for professional help from GVF&R.
GVF&R members Gibson Gamel and Tanner Loewe stepped in to show students the equipment firefighters use during emergencies. Gamel and Loewe went over each piece of gear they use and why, as the kids’ eyes lit up with how technical it was.
Students were drawn in by their stories of being on the job and hands couldn’t stop waving in the air as they tried to pick the firefighters’ brains.
They really drove the point home that in case of a fire, don’t hide. Try and get outside and crawl low to the ground for the freshest air possible. GVF&R will be there ASAP to help.
I was impressed that Lieutenant Bartholomew has been coming to the school for October’s Fire Safety Month annually for over a decade. Gamel, who attended school in Girdwood, has been participating for about five years. Loewe was participating for his first year, but was excited to get a chance to get involved and was looking forward to future participation in Fire Safety Month.
We discussed how they catered each speech to the age of the students they were talking with. I asked about how Fire Safety Month started and Lieutenant Bartholomew said that it began as a memorial for the big fire long ago in Chicago.
I feel lucky to have such kind and heroic people serving our community and feel safer having them here if the need arises. Thank you to all the Firefighters who helped make Fire Safety Month happen and keeping our children informed and safe.