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Teaching Fire Prevention

Firefighters target lessons to children.

Fire prevention starts with the very young. That was message from Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department last Saturday as they opened stations countywide to children — of all ages — as part of their National Fire Prevention Week activities to promote safety and awareness.

This year's theme, "Use Candles With Care," focused on the dangers presented by burning candles, a serious and growing problem, according to the department. Statistics show home candle fires have risen steadily over the last decade.

"Most people don't realize that they are at greater danger from fire in their homes than anywhere else," said Dan Schmidt, public information officer, Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department. Throughout all 35 county fire stations firefighters and paramedics provided information on the dangers of leaving candles unattended, the proper way to burn candles safely, and what to do should a home fire occur.

One of the largest crowds turned out at Station 5, Franconia, on Beulah Road. "We actually have a pan with grease in it that flames up on a stove to demonstrate what to do in case of a kitchen fire," said Lt. Marcus Williams, paramedic at Franconia Station.

"We go to every school in the area and had out flyers prior to this open house. That's why we get such a good turnout," said Franconia Station Fire Chief Tim Fleming. "We do this here and at Station 37 in Kingstowne."

The success of the flyers was evident from a bounce room filled with children to those admiring and petting two search and rescue German Shepherd dogs moving among them. There was also "Sparky" The Fire Dog at some eight feet in height shaking hands with the small fry, Tommy Ryan, age and height, four.

A major attraction at Franconia is an a 1937 fire engine that was originally purchased for that volunteer station. It remained in active service until 1972. Restored in 1974 "It's a favorite of all the politicians when it's in a parade," Fleming said.

IT WAS ALSO a hit with six-and-half-year-old Elizabeth Goldsworthy as she sat behind the wheel next to a stuffed and fluffy Dalmatian dog nearly as big as she. "This is a really great fire truck," she said.

Another busy station was Mount Vernon on Sherwood Hall Lane. "We've had a couple of hundred people come by since we started at 10 a.m. This is the best attendance we've ever had," said Captain Jim Tolson.

"We come every year. This is really fabulous for all the kids," said Jody Boudredux, a Riverside Estate resident, while her four-and-half-year-old son, Buddy, was practicing his skills at aiming and shooting a fire hose with Tolson.

There was also a good crowd at Station 11, Penn Daw. "This community outreach program is one of the most important things we do to educate people about fire safety," said Captain Craig Buckley.

A 27-year veteran of the department, Buckley is on his fourth tour of duty at Penn Daw. "I was here as a firefighter and paramedic, then as a sergeant, now I'm here as a captain. I live near by and that makes it a great assignment," he said.

Two visitors enjoying being in the cab of one of the pieces of equipment were Cliff Gillian, 13, and Dalton William, 8. "We've been bringing them here on this day for the past three or four years," said their grandparents John and Mary Williams. Although the boys live near the fire station, the Williams reside in Reston.

IN ADDITION to various pieces of apparatus available for inspection, there was also instructions in how firefighters don their gear when going on a call, literature on fire prevention and safety, and many other fun and educational displays such as how to crawl through a smoke filled area and master the technique of drop, roll and crawl.

Fire Prevention Week has been sponsored by the National Fire Protection Association for 83 years.