Making fire safety fun

Fire safety is an important message, but it’s also one kids hear every year.

So how do you keep that message engaging year after year?

Monday was the first day of National Fire Prevention Awareness Week, and members of the Onalaska Fire Department spent it teaching fire safety to hundreds of kids.

When these guys signed on to be firefighters, you can bet they never imagined they’d be playing with hand puppets. Or powering an animatronic Dalmatian, driving a fire truck.

But when trying to keep the attention of kids who’ve grown up playing with cellphones and tablets, Assistant Onalaska Fire Chief Troy Gudie said it’s important to keep them engaged if they’re going to learn.

“Kids are a little bit different these days. They’re involved in so many different media type things with their cellphones. And I was observing today, as the children were watching the show, and they were captivated. They had their attention,” said Gudie.


The way firefighters communicate with kids might be different, but the message is the same: Make sure you change the batteries in your smoke detectors, practice fire drills at home and have two ways out of every room.

After the show, some classes got to tour the fire station. They even got to climb through a fire truck.

The hope is that students will go home and talk to their parents about what they learned.

Irving Pertzsch Elementary third-grader Alanah Kaufmann said her parents took the batteries out of their smoke detector because it goes off sometimes when they cook.

“They don’t worry about it, but sometimes I do. So tonight I really want to go back home and say, ‘Can you put the batteries back in it just in case?'” said Alanah.

Because something as small as a working smoke detector can make a big difference.

“We want to prevent fires. We’d just as soon educate the public, then, to be proactive instead of reactive,” said Gudie.

The Onalaska Fire Department has actually been doing fire safety outreach since last month. By the end of next week, Gudie said they expect to reach about 2,000 Onalaska residents.

If you’d like to learn more about fire safety, you can head to the National Fire Protection Association’s website.