There was a great big fire department ladder truck parked next to Fort Mill Elementary this week, but it wasn’t there responding to a fire.
It was there as part of Fire Prevention Week, a staple in schools across the state and the country as firefighters teach children about everything from smoke detectors to fire trucks.
At Fort Mill Elementary on Tuesday, fireman Andrew Mosher made his presentations interactive.
“What do we do if we hear the smoke detector?” he asked the students. “Do we call 911 to order a pizza?”
The responses were a resounding, “Go outside!” and “No!” shouted at him by first- and second-graders, who had plenty of questions for Mosher and fellow fireman Andrew Hicks, who wore full firefighting gear so students could see it up close and personal.
“Why is the mask so big?” and “What happens when all the air runs out?” the kids wanted to know.
Mosher and Hicks said they look forward to visiting schools each year because it helps them reach a wide audience.
“The more information you can give kids, the better it is for everyone,” Mosher said. “They pass it along to their parents and their families.”
Many of the Fort Mill teachers said they were incorporating fire safety and prevention into their classroom lessons throughout the week.
Sarah, 8, said she knew about some of what the firefighters talked about – like what smoke detectors do – but she didn’t know anything about everything that goes into a firetruck and a firefighter’s suit.
Hicks walked around and let each kindergartener touch his heavy coat while he wore the large breathing mask and helmet to help them learn not to be afraid of firefighters, should they ever need to be helped by one.
“It feels crunchy,” 5-year-old Quinn said of the suit. “I got to meet the firemen. Now I know what to do.”
This week and throughout the month of October, Fort Mill firefighters are visiting schools and churches to educate the public, said town spokeswoman Kimberly Starne. At schools, they mainly focus on the younger grades.
In Rock Hill schools, fire prevention education programs have been going on since nearly the beginning of the school year, said Rock Hill Fire Capt. Travis McDaniel.
The Rock Hill Fire Department is also working to educate seniors about fire prevention and safety, he said.