By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Pre-schoolers get fire safety demonstration
children listen
Hats in place, children listen as the firefighters talk about their work. - photo by Photo by Alena Parker.
As part of  October’s National Fire Prevention Month campaign, the Walthourville Volunteer Fire Department made sure even the community’s youngest citizens knew the fire response basics Oct. 22 during a presentation at the Greater Expectations daycare center.
The 3- and 4-year-olds had their own definitions of fire safety when James McKnight, the volunteer fire department’s chaplain, asked the preschoolers how much they know about the topic.
“It means we’re going to help you not get burned,” McKnight agreed with the children. “We want to teach you to be safe if there is a fire.”
In addition to learning the classic three steps to follow when clothes catch fire — stop, drop and roll — the children also were visited by a firefighter in full gear and got a tour of the compartments in one of the department’s three fire trucks.
Assistant Fire Chief Benjamin Collins said the department wants to increase its visibility and recruit more volunteers to build up its force from the current 13 firefighters and six officers.
He said they have been working hard to address stereotypes many have about volunteer firefighters.
“Because we’re volunteers, our response time is lengthened,” Collins said. “But we provide the exact same service with the exact same qualifications as a paid fire department. The only difference is we do it for free.”
Collins said he thinks the volunteer fire department is unknown to roughly 80 percent of the community. However, homeowners may appreciate discounted home insurance qualifications for living in a community with its own fire department.
“It’s not only when they (the community) call and need us,” Collins said. “It’s what we’re doing preventively for them.”
The children got to see Lt. Jonathan Dupree dress up in 60 pounds of firefighter gear, which the firefighters hope will help children identify the people they should seek out if help is needed.
“Kids this young, that’s the first thing that they’re afraid of,” Dupree said.
Belva Duncan co-owns Greater Expectations with her husband, Lawrence Duncan, and serves as director of the private after-school care and free, state-funded pre-K.
She and her staff try to introduce academic concepts from basic math to some sign language, so Duncan thought adding fire safety was important.     
“It’s a learning environment,” Duncan said. “We use a High Reach curriculum.”
Anyone interested does not need to have a background in firefighting to volunteer. They just need to have a willingness to help and the fire department will make sure interested people receive the necessary training, according to Collins.
Other than firefighters, the department currently is looking for a historian and a photographer.
For information, call the WVFD at 368-6260.
Sign up for our e-newsletters