BRICK – Fatal victims of fires are mostly the very young and the very old, which is why the Brick Township Bureau of Fire Safety has been visiting schools and speaking to senior groups.
Young children don’t know what to do or where to go when there is a fire, and oftentimes the elderly have mobility issues, explained Brick Township Bureau of Fire Safety Chief Kevin Batzel. He was speaking at Osbornville Elementary School recently during one of their many programs.
“Children are sponges,” Batzel said. “They go home and teach their parents.”
He and Assistant Chief Richard Orlando lead the community outreach programs, with participation by volunteer firefighters from all township fire companies.
Volunteers from Breton Woods Fire Company and Pioneer Hose Fire Company brought two fire trucks to the school for a presentation on fire safety, which was held outdoors due to the public health crisis.
Before COVID, the department had indoor assemblies, followed by a trip outside to see the fire trucks. Last year the event was all virtual, Chief Batzel said.
Volunteer firefighter Angel Mercado donned 80 pounds of gear, complete with air tanks, facemask and helmet to teach the elementary school children not to be fearful of them if they’re ever in a fire. “We are here to help you,” he said.
Assistant Chief Orlando told the children that the firefighters put their “bunker gear” (protective clothing) on at the firehouse and put their air packs and other equipment on in the fire truck while enroute to the fire.
Mercado demonstrated how the firefighter’s air tanks are connected to the backs of the seats in the fire truck. All the firefighter has to do is link their arms into the straps and stand up.
“It’s as heavy as a pumpkin!” exclaimed one child when he got to hold and try on one of the helmets.
The children learned about the importance of smoke alarms and heard how they sound while checking the battery.
“If the smoke alarm goes off in your house, it’s time to leave,” said Orlando. “Wherever you are, get out of the house. Talk to the adults that you live with about what to do if there’s a fire.”
During a question and answer period, one child asked why the fire trucks at the school were yellow and green. “I thought fire trucks were red,” he said.
Chief Batzel said the color of the trucks are based on history and tradition, but certain elements have to meet established standards, like striping and lights. “But color isn’t one of them,” he said.
Osbornville Elementary School’s kindergarten bilingual teacher Joann Betancourt said her class had been learning about community helpers all week.
“So this worked out perfectly,” she said. “They all made and colored firefighter hats this morning to get them excited.”
After sharing their fire safety message, the firefighters handed out coloring books, rulers, sunglasses and more giveaways to the children.
Fire Prevention Month is held in October in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. The Fire Safety Bureau is planning to visit every preschool and elementary school.