By NATHAN GREGORY
Though school is still out for summer, more than three dozen local children are in session for a different kind of class.
Starkville Fire Department is holding its Youth Fire Academy this week at Fire Station No. 1. So far this week, participants have learned about fire safety drills, escape plans and skills firemen commonly utilize in rescuing people from fires.
The week-long training session is hosted in conjunction with the Mississippi Department of Health. MDH has cosponsored Fire Academy for Kids for more than 70 similar fire academies since 1999. SFDâs academy is the first of its kind to be held in Starkville.
One of the firefighters assisting in teaching skills to the participants is Marco Rodriguez, who said he hopes the course reinforces them in how important it is that they have a knowledge of firefighting and fire safety.
âThe response has been wonderful. Theyâre really bright kids. Considering their age, theyâre very well informed and what weâre pumping into them in school and through the media every year is working, so itâs very refreshing to see that. Weâre going over escape plans for their house. Weâre showing them about our rope rescue capabilities and get-out-stay-out type of operation as far as their escape plan and meeting area for their house,â Rodriguez said. âThe biggest thing is to be able to convey to them to remind their parents and guardians when situations do come up the kids will be able to assist or remind us to shut off candles, to wear your seat belts, to use proper safety practices as far as checking your batteries and your smoke detectors. All the different things we try to do on a yearly basis to remind children â reinforcing it and drilling it into their head every time they have it in school. These kids are going to get it twice a year now because they came through the academy.â
Justin Edwards, another SFD firefighter, showed participants two different mechanical advantage pulley systems used to rescue people from fires.
âThe first day (we teach them) a little bit about tools and equipment we have on the truck â how our truck works. Right now weâre showing them the other things a lot of other people might not know that we already do as far as rope, confined space, (and) special operations,â Edwards said. âWhat weâre showing them is two different mechanical advantages. One (a 4-to-1 pulley system) would be a vertical for lifting somebody out of a confined space. (A 3-to-1 pulley system) would be more of a horizontal that would use less length of rope. Theyâre just made a little bit differently and used for different applications.â
Edwards said he was pleased with the turnout the academy has seen this week.
âWhen thereâs a good turnout, thatâs always a plus,â he said. âMaybe the kids are getting out and telling their friends once they get home and maybe a couple more kids were able to come (Tuesday). I think itâs great because the kids must be enjoying it enough to tell their other friends what theyâve been doing.â
Grace Yarbrough, 13, will be in eighth grade this upcoming school year and said she has enjoyed the first two days of the academy.
âMonday, we were looking at the fire truck and seeing the jaws of life, the cutters and the spreaders and the lamp. We (saw) the water hose and all the things they have to do to âŠ the outfits they put on. Today, weâve been learning about hazards,â she said. âI learned if you have fire on your clothes you need to stop, drop and roll. I learned you donât need to leave things on (and to put out) candles. Heaters, you need to turn them off. In your room if you have a heater donât put any clothes or anything on it because it might cause a fire.
âI have enjoyed it a lot,â she added. âItâs been really fun learning about how to escape fires and learning about the firefighters. Itâs been really interesting.â
SFD Training Officer Charles Yarbrough said there are more fun activities planned for the participants later this week.
âWeâre doing search and rescue. Weâre going to teach the kids how to âŠ if they wake up in the middle of the night the procedures they need to do to get out of the house,â Yarbrough said. âWeâre going to let them use the fire hoses and fire extinguishers.â