Firefighters take time to teach

Published 4:45 pm Saturday, October 8, 2011

Austin firefighter Jim Halsey shows Neveln first-graders how to crawl underneath smoke while dressed in his turn-out gear during a visit Friday afternoon. - Eric Johnson/

Austin firefighters have been busy combating field fires for the last week, but this week they’ll be busy teaching the community about fire prevention.

Fire Prevention Week is Oct. 9-12, and Fire Chief Mickey Healey said his firefighters will be teaching fire safety tips in elementary classrooms.

According to Healey, his department talks to kindergarten, first-grade and fourth-grade classes about fire safety every year. The kids even get a tour of one of the fire engines, he said.

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The firefighters teach everything from the classic “stop, drop and roll” to the importance of knowing how to call 911. But fire safety tips aren’t just important for kids. Healey has plenty for adults, too.

Healey suggested that anyone who keeps a lot of fuel cans in his or her garage be careful about their placement.

“Make sure you keep them away from ignitable areas,” he said. In fact, Healey said, it’s best to keep fuel cans in a shed away from the house.

He also said smokers should be cautious about where they extinguish cigarette butts.

Although putting butts in a smoking receptacle is safer than throwing them in the grass, it’s important to have sand or water in the receptacle to ensure the cigarette is out.

As for farmers harvesting in the dry, fire-provoking weather, Healey said good maintenance on farm machinery is a big prevention tool.

“A lot of it is taking the time to make sure (the machinery) is clean,” he said. “That would prevent some of those field fires.”

The Austin Fire Department will hold a Fire Prevention Week open house Thursday, Oct. 13. Healey said an extinguisher station for people to practice using fire extinguishers will be available, as well as a station with a small building that kids can spray water on. A kitchen fire safety display will likely be set up, and the public can tour the fire station and take a close-up look at the fire engines.


Chief Healey’s 5 tips for fire safety:

1. Make sure you have working smoke detectors near all your sleeping areas. “Just one is not enough,” Healey said.

2.. Have a family meeting place outside your home in case of a fire. “Know where you’re going to group up so you, and we, can find everybody,” Healey said.

3. Watch how much clutter you have in your home. Stacks of papers or lots of clutter can be fuel if a fire starts. Also, do not block doorways with furniture or clutter.

4. Be careful if you burn candles or incense. Many people forget they have candles burning, and if anything is sitting too close it can catch fire.

5. Know how to use a fire extinguisher. “You can keep the fire small (with an extinguisher) and that helps out,” Healey said.