Students learn life-saving lesson

On a recent visit to the Bellevue fire station are: First row: Nathan Gratner, Ella Zaborowski, Luciano D'Amico,Nina Townsell;Second row: Cody Saylor, Sam Connors, Evan Carson, Ginger Jaworski, Willow Rhine, Tristan Weaver, Nick Scalos; Third row: Chris Lundberg, Lt. Jack Davin, Drake Brown, Rachel Sarver, Shane Yakemawiz, Maz Catherwood, Kylie Salamacha, Carrleigh Bocka, Bob Guckert, teacher Lynn Tennant. Heffley. Photo by Tom Steiner for The Citizen

When Bellevue Elementary students hear the sounds of fire sirens echoing in their town, they have a fairly good idea of what’s going on. They may not know where the fire is or how serious it is, but they can visualize what is going on at the fire station and they know the work that the firefighters are doing to end the emergency as quickly and as safely as possible.

Lt. Jack Davin, now in his 26th year as a firefighter, started an educational program for K-2 students several years ago, and he expands on it every year. He also does classes for grades 3-6 at the school and brings the mobile fire house to the school for a visit.

“The kindergarten, first and second grade classes of Bellevue Elementary always look forward to a walk up to the fire station each fall,” said teacher Lynn Tennant Heffley.

In second grade, students learn to practice a fire drill at home and always to have a safe meeting place outside. The meeting place must be 20 feet from the house, in front of the house, on the same side of the street and be something that is permanent.

Students watched a demonstration that showed smoke filling up a house and rising to the ceilings. They were taught to stop, drop and go, and were reminded to never ever go back into a burning building, but to leave toys and pets behind,” Heffley said.

A few of the students spoke of highlights of the program.

"I learned to get out of a burning house and stay out!" said Cody Saylor.

Evan Carson said, "My favorite part was when we crawled through the pretend door. I learned to feel the door before I opened it."

And a video featuring cartoon-like characters was shown, the purpose being to instruct rather than to frighten.

"I loved the video! It was funny! I learned what to do in a fire!" said Nina Townsell.

Heffley said that Davin considers this to be an important part of his job. “He has constructed a practice door where students crawl to the door, touch it to see if it's hot, and then crawl safely out of the house. If the door is hot, students were told to put something underneath the door jam and to go to the window and yell for help. Volunteer firefighter Bob Guckert took the class on a tour of the fire station and demonstrated his equipment to us. The students love going to the fire house and remember every year what they've been taught. Students made thank you cards to show their appreciation to our Bellevue firefighters.”

While the field trip began with a pleasant walk down Lincoln Avenue, the lessons learned were as important as lessons the students have been learning in their classroom.

“It’s important that children know what to do in the event of a fire and to practice,” Heffley said. “It helps them to not panic because they already know what to do. Teaching them the danger of smoke and not necessarily the fire is also important.”