ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
The base fire department held a parade and open house for Fire Prevention Week, October 27, 2018 at Altus AFB.
The fire department drove various vehicles through base housing at 9 a.m. to pass out candy and toys to families on base.
Following the parade, the fire department held an open house, allowing Airmen and their families to see how the department works first-hand.
“I’ve been a firefighter for 17 years and this is always my favorite part of the year,” said Don Fithian, a firefighter assigned to the 97th Civil Engineer Squadron. “Teaching the kids is the best part. It’s pretty important that they aren’t scared of us if the situation comes where they need us.”
The fire department gave out toys and learning materials. In addition, they also set up a bounce house, a simulator, and Sparky the fire dog, the mascot of the fire department, also paid a visit.
“Having Sparky walking around is a way to get kids involved and interested,” said Chris Sanchez, the Youth Center director assigned to the 97th Force Support Squadron. “My wife and I have kids that are getting to the age where they’re starting to move around so it’s important that we drop those messages on them about fire safety in a way that they can understand.”
The fire department provided a simulator that allowed the children to learn how they would escape during a fire, how to prevent fires and how smoke detectors work. In addition to a large screen with questions for the children to answer, the simulator was also equipped with fake smoke to simulate the conditions of an actual fire.
“With the simulator we have, the kids have fun and we get to teach them,” said Fithian. “They love the firetrucks and that’s pretty cool. Growing up as a little kid you see the firetrucks as an amazing thing and being able to relive that and share it with them is priceless.”
While the children are educated by the firefighters at the event, the goal is that the learning doesn’t stop there.
“The gift bag that we got came with a lot of things to teach our kids back home,” said Sanchez. “Small things like emergency hammers, outlet covers and little booklets with information will definitely help us teach them and get them to pay attention.”
While this event is intended to be fun and to educate kids, there is also a side effect on the firefighters themselves.
“It does kind of make you feel like a superhero,” said Fithian. “It’s hard work here. It’s very gratifying to be here when someone needs help and it’s amazing to see how the children view us.”
Even though fire prevention week is only a week, the lessons taught are lifelong and could save the lives of not only the children, but the parents of the now educated kids.
The firefighters of the 97th AMW train hard so they can be ready to respond should the situation arise, but Fire Prevention Week allows them to train the families of the 97th AMW to educate their children and jumpstart a lifetime of learning.