Students learn fire safety |

Students learn fire safety

by Maggie O'Neill
Appeal Staff Writer
Nevada Division of Forestry firefighters Brian Baquette, right, and Matt Connelly, help 7-year-old Caroline Gabica climb out of the window of Washoe County Volunteer Safe House fire-training unit at Fritsch Elementary School.

Fritsch Elementary School student Dagan Kipling followed directions to the T.

Not only did he jump wild-eyed out of bed when the smoke detector went off, he then stayed close to the floor as he crawled.

Up over the sofa of the Washoe County Volunteer Safe House fire training unit he went, and then out a window and down a short ladder into waiting firefighters’ arms.

“I’m suffocating!” he said in mock agony as he exited the smoky room of the training unit.

Dagan truly did seem to get the message from the visiting fire-protection agencies last week that fire is dangerous, and the best response is an educated response. An example is preventing a campfire from becoming a wildfire – like the Waterfall fire did.

“When you put out a campfire, first, you put water in,” said Dagan, repeating what he learned from NDF firefighter Mark “Fuzzy” Lathrop. “And you mix it up with some kind of sand and then you put it on top to take out the fire.”

The reason this is so important is “so when you leave,” Dagan said, “the camp won’t set on fire.”

Dagan remembers the Waterfall fire first hand. While his family did not evacuate their home, certain items were removed from his room.

“I gave some stuff to the high school (where the evacuees were),” he said. “I gave them some board games and some of my stuffed animals.”

Kevin Sisson, 9, too, remembers Waterfall raging through. His family was evacuated from their apartment and went to stay with family. He recalls it as the time of his worst ever asthma attack.

“After they evacuated us, we had to wait,” he said. “We went to Grandma’s. I didn’t have my inhaler. I used my cousin’s.”

The annual fire-education day at Fritsch is sponsored by agencies like the Nevada Division of Forestry and Carson City and Incline fire departments. The safe house that Dagan climbed through was provided by Washoe County volunteers.

“We do this because it’s Fire Prevention Month,” said NDF Firefighter II Mark Regan, who oversees the event each year. “By doing what we’re doing and talking to 225 kids, it’s going to effect one of them. It’s ultimately going to save one of their lives.”

An observation he made was that it is a good experience for children to be inside the Safe House trailer and experience what smoke is like.

“I don’t think they realize when smoke comes into the room that your vision goes away,” he said.

Students practiced “stop, drop and roll,” saw the inside of an ambulance, and learned campfire safety – the lack of which caused the Waterfall Fire, a fact many students knew. Students also practiced dialing 911 and visited with Sparky the Fire Dog, whose education mission is to prevent residential fires.

Mariah Carel, 8, shared some terrific advice about what to do if you’re stuck in a structure fire.

“If you are in a two-story home, put a shirt by the window to let (firefighters) know you’re there,” she said.

Over where Sparky and Smokey Bear posed for pictures with students, Lathrop explained campfire safety and the equipment firefighters wear when they leave for a fire that has gotten out of control.

“If it’s worth having a fire, it’s worth putting it out,” he explained.

He said the heavy gear a firefighter wears makes it hard to hike up to a fire, like during the Waterfall Fire, when it’s not accessible by trucks. To make sure a campfire is out, he suggested feeling it for temperature.

“Always make sure it’s cool to the touch by the time you leave, whether it’s going to bed or leaving the campsite,” he said.

n Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at or 881-1219.

Campfire safety tips

Follow these every time.

• Put out the campfire with a mixture of water and sand

• Have a type of barrier around the campfire

• Clear vegetation down to the soil at least 5 feet away from the campfire

• Keep the fire small. It doesn’t need to be a bonfire to reach the three goals of heat, light and roasting marshmallows

• Make sure the campfire area is cold to the touch before leaving

* Provided by NDF firefighter Mark Lathrop