By HEATHER NELLIS
Recorder News Staff
FONDA -- Local firefighters on Wednesday taught some of Fonda-Fultonville Elementary School's youngest students about the importance of preparedness.
In observance of National Fire Safety Month, they told pre-kindergartners, kindergartners and first-graders how having a practiced fire escape plan and regularly-tested smoke alarms can help save people's lives.
"We convince the kids to bug their parents about it, because more than half of them don't have a fire escape plan," Tribes Hill Fire Capt. Wesley Jones said.
Tribes Hill firefighters Jeremy Pearce and Chris Fernandez, and retired Fort Hunter firefighters George King and Paul Slansky accompanied Jones at the annual event.
Fernandez said the tradition started four years ago after firefighters responded to a fully-involved structure fire that was reportedly started by a child playing with a lighter in his bedroom closet.
"[Pearce] was talking about it, and wondered if there was any kind of fire prevention at the school, and it turns out, there wasn't," Fernandez said.
Now, some of the department's most experienced firefighters take the yearly trip to the school, including King, who was a firefighter for 55 years.
"He's one of the good ones ... one of the great ones," Jones corrected himself, nodding at King.
Other local agencies are gearing up for next week's observance, like the American Red Cross. Its Northeastern New York Chapter, which services this area, responded to 172 home fires last year.
"We respond to about one home fire every nine minutes across the country," said regional Emergency Services Director Tim Bachman, who noted the agency responded to 63,000 home fires nationally last year. "The best thing you can do to protect your loved ones is to install a smoke alarm and develop and practice a fire escape plan. Fires can spread very quickly, so everyone at home, school and work should know what to do when they hear the sound of a smoke alarm."
Additional recommendations include:
* Install smoke alarms on every level of the house and inside bedrooms.
* Replace batteries in smoke alarms at least once a year. Test each alarm monthly by pushing the test button.
* Ensure that household members know two ways to escape from every room and designate a place to meet outside of your house in case of a fire. Practice your plan at least twice a year.
* Follow your escape plan in case of fire. Get out, stay out, and call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.