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The students at Eastern Christian Elementary School have been learning about fire safety throughout the week. Students were visited by the local Midland Park fire fighters and were able to get up close and personal to a firetruck and see the fire gear the fire fighters use to manage house and building fires.

On Thursday, the students learned about fires that occur outside of a building from a forest ranger that fights fires. Students already knew that water is a great way to put out a fire, but also learned they can use sand or dirt to smother the fire. The forest ranger explained that they are not able to carry a lot of water to a fire deep in the woods, so often use dirt to help extinguish fires.

The ranger discussed the gear they carry and that their gear is much lighter than the local fire department’s because they sometimes need to hike many miles in the woods to a fire. They wear light helmets with a fireguard covering their neck, and light fire jackets. They use a variety of tools, similar to the local fire department, but also need to carry a backpack that keeps plenty of food and water in it. When fighting wildfires, they do not know when they will be able to leave the fire and won’t have access to food and drinkable water deep in the woods.

Many of the elementary students told the forest ranger that they enjoy camping and use campfires. The ranger agreed that fires are a great way to enjoy their camping experience, but helped the students understand the importance of being mindful of how to put out the fire. Students watched a video to learn about the best places to build and contain a campfire (away from any low hanging trees and structures) and how to put the fire out.  They were taught to pour water on the fire and to stir the embers and ashes to ensure there are not hot embers left that can be blown by the wind to ignite other areas of the forest on fire.

Students were then treated with a special visit by Smokey Bear to help them remember that “Only YOU can prevent wildfires.” Students enjoyed being able to meet Smokey and have a class photo with him. The students were excited to be able to pet his fur and give him hugs, but the ranger made sure they knew not to hug and pet wild bears. Smokey is an old bear, about to celebrate his 70th birthday, and quite tame, as compared with the bears found in the wild.

If you have an elementary student, be sure to ask them how to have a safe, outdoor fire!

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