By NATHAN GREGORY
Though school is still out for summer, more than three dozen local children are in session for a different kind of class.
Starkville Fire Department is holding its Youth Fire Academy this week at Fire Station No. 1. So far this week, participants have learned about fire safety drills, escape plans and skills firemen commonly utilize in rescuing people from fires.
The week-long training session is hosted in conjunction with the Mississippi Department of Health. MDH has cosponsored Fire Academy for Kids for more than 70 similar fire academies since 1999. SFD’s academy is the first of its kind to be held in Starkville.
One of the firefighters assisting in teaching skills to the participants is Marco Rodriguez, who said he hopes the course reinforces them in how important it is that they have a knowledge of firefighting and fire safety.
“The response has been wonderful. They’re really bright kids. Considering their age, they’re very well informed and what we’re pumping into them in school and through the media every year is working, so it’s very refreshing to see that. We’re going over escape plans for their house. We’re showing them about our rope rescue capabilities and get-out-stay-out type of operation as far as their escape plan and meeting area for their house,” Rodriguez said. “The biggest thing is to be able to convey to them to remind their parents and guardians when situations do come up the kids will be able to assist or remind us to shut off candles, to wear your seat belts, to use proper safety practices as far as checking your batteries and your smoke detectors. All the different things we try to do on a yearly basis to remind children — reinforcing it and drilling it into their head every time they have it in school. These kids are going to get it twice a year now because they came through the academy.”
Justin Edwards, another SFD firefighter, showed participants two different mechanical advantage pulley systems used to rescue people from fires.
“The first day (we teach them) a little bit about tools and equipment we have on the truck — how our truck works. Right now we’re showing them the other things a lot of other people might not know that we already do as far as rope, confined space, (and) special operations,” Edwards said. “What we’re showing them is two different mechanical advantages. One (a 4-to-1 pulley system) would be a vertical for lifting somebody out of a confined space. (A 3-to-1 pulley system) would be more of a horizontal that would use less length of rope. They’re just made a little bit differently and used for different applications.”
Edwards said he was pleased with the turnout the academy has seen this week.
“When there’s a good turnout, that’s always a plus,” he said. “Maybe the kids are getting out and telling their friends once they get home and maybe a couple more kids were able to come (Tuesday). I think it’s great because the kids must be enjoying it enough to tell their other friends what they’ve been doing.”
Grace Yarbrough, 13, will be in eighth grade this upcoming school year and said she has enjoyed the first two days of the academy.
“Monday, we were looking at the fire truck and seeing the jaws of life, the cutters and the spreaders and the lamp. We (saw) the water hose and all the things they have to do to … the outfits they put on. Today, we’ve been learning about hazards,” she said. “I learned if you have fire on your clothes you need to stop, drop and roll. I learned you don’t need to leave things on (and to put out) candles. Heaters, you need to turn them off. In your room if you have a heater don’t put any clothes or anything on it because it might cause a fire.
“I have enjoyed it a lot,” she added. “It’s been really fun learning about how to escape fires and learning about the firefighters. It’s been really interesting.”
SFD Training Officer Charles Yarbrough said there are more fun activities planned for the participants later this week.
“We’re doing search and rescue. We’re going to teach the kids how to … if they wake up in the middle of the night the procedures they need to do to get out of the house,” Yarbrough said. “We’re going to let them use the fire hoses and fire extinguishers.”