Portales Fire Chief Gary Nuckols believes children are never too young to learn about the dangers of fire.
Pre-school and kindergarten aged children were given tours of the fire department this week as Fire Prevention Week.
“We target our young kids, and always have, to start that education early on,” said Nuckols, who said firefighters have also visited local schools this week. “It tends to stay with them or at least, it seems like it does.”
He said firefighters have made contact with about 800 children in all, teaching them fire safety, such as “stop, drop and roll” and what to do if you see someone playing with fire.
“Our efforts with pre-K kids are to get them comfortable with us and seeing us in our uniforms and gear,” Nuckols said. “At that age, we aren’t really teaching them fire safety but just trying to get them more comfortable.”
Nuckols said small children have, in past fire situations, hidden from firefighters out of fear, so the preschool age is about teaching them firefighters are the good guys. Safety lessons are next once they reach kindergarten and first grade levels, he said.
Not only are the children show equipment but also the living quarters at the department to help the children understand that they often live at the fire station, which helps personalize firefighters for the children.
“Hopefully, what they get out of this, the end result, will be them making a difference,” Nuckols said. “The end result is instilling something in them that could possibly save a life one day.”
The impact of the firefighters on the kindergartners of Brown Elementary seemed evident Wednesday afternoon as five classes from the school went on a fire station tour.
A variety of 5- and 6-year-old boys and girls jumped up and down with their arms in the air as firefighter Gary Rains asked them if they liked the fire station so far.
“Yes!” screamed several small voices as their hands remained in the air.
“The coolest thing I learned was whenever I was asking the fire guy what happens when you have no water when there’s a fire,” 6-year-old Devin Diaz said. “His answer was they have water in their trucks.” Diaz said his favorite thing about the fire station was the trucks.
Johnny Velasquez, 5, said he also liked the fire trucks and the ambulance because of the equipment inside.
“In case of a fire, they’ll come for us,” Velasquez said about the coolest thing he learned Wednesday afternoon.
Firefighter Hugh Frank, who was one of the several firefighters who gives tours, said he likes seeing the children’s smiles when they are in the station.
“It’s always fun to let the kids see the fire trucks and where we live,” he said.