Firefighters get creative in pandemic to teach fire prevention

Published: Oct. 8, 2020 at 4:17 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - This is Fire Prevention Week, and that usually means firefighters are in the middle of a big campaign in schools and day cares to teach fire safety to young kids. That’s not possible this year with most schools going virtual, so firefighters are getting creative.

The Green Bay Metro Fire Department is still trying to interact with kids and teach fire safety but -- just like everything else in 2020 -- it’s being done over a computer.

“Everybody’s had to change their habits and how they do their jobs so differently this year, and for fire prevention, we’re no different,” explained Lt. Shauna Walesh.

The October calendar for the department’s life safety educator is usually jampacked with visits to classrooms, but Thursday was a first for Walesh.

That afternoon, the classroom came to her virtually -- in the comfort of her fire prevention office -- as she conducted a fire prevention lesson to elementary students all live and online.

“Most people are holed up at home and are craving just to talk to somebody, and that’s why we really wanted to keep that interaction part of that presentation,” Walesh said.

A little brainstorming, some creativity and a lot of teamwork resulted in a successful live visit with kids watching and learning from home.

Live chatting creates its own challenges, not only battling technology but keeping the attention of a big group of very little kids, so Walesh enlisted the help of fellow firefighters to record videos to show students, too.

“Our battalion chief, Mike, did the ‘Stop, drop and roll’ one. He did great at that today. We have one of myself putting gear on, showing the kids the firefighter ‘costume’, and we’re working on doing a station tour, a virtual one, for later this month, too,” she said.

Green Bay Metro Fire Department records a video presentation for schools and day cares
Green Bay Metro Fire Department records a video presentation for schools and day cares(WBAY)

This year’s theme is kitchen safety, and with more people cooking at home during the pandemic, and kids helping in the kitchen, too, Walesh wants to make sure safety and prevention is taught early.

The department has responded to more than 65 kitchen fires already this year.

She hopes these lessons might help prevent those numbers from rising.

“Just like everybody else, we are learning, too, and we are not perfect, but we hope to deliver some good safety tips,” said Walesh.

Firefighters are planning a lot more of these lessons all month. The fire department is also doing Facebook Live story times as another way to connect with kids.

Teachers who want to have firefighters talk with their students are encouraged to call the lieutenant in charge of programs at (920) 448-3293.

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