HANFORD — A chorus of “I like firefighters,” “I like firefighters too” and “Firefighters are awesome” rang out on Wednesday at Lee Richmond Elementary School’s afternoon preschool class.
Hanford firefighter Scott Mellon was with the kids to teach them a little bit about what he does during Hanford Fire Department’s preschool burn safety program.
It was Mellon’s second year visiting preschools. He said he used to do the same thing at his kids’ daycare when they were younger.
“It’s a little program I designed trying to tailor just for this age,” Mellon said.
In all, Mellon visited 10 different preschools and talked to over 575 children in two weeks.
“If I leave and they have a good feeling about us as a fire department, then I’ve done my job,” Mellon said.
Every October, firefighters visit all the elementary students during Fire Prevention Week to give presentations and discuss smoke alarms, the dangers of fire, calling 9-1-1, escape plans and stop, drop, and roll.
However, with the preschool kids who are younger and haven’t had a chance to meet firefighters, Mellon said it’s all just about exposure. He said preschoolers are at the age where they get really nervous when they see somebody dressed up in fire gear.
“My goal going into the preschools is to make sure that the kids understand at that age that someone who is dressed like [a firefighter] is there to help,” Mellon said. “We don’t want people hiding from us or being afraid of us, because it makes the job of rescuing somebody that much harder.”
Mellon said he likes going to the preschool classrooms because he gets to go in the kids’ environment where they feel comfortable, and it’s usually a smaller-sized class so he can hold their attention and take more time with them.
After going over each part of his uniform and why he wears those items, Mellon put the items on one by one so the kids could see that it was still him under all the gear. Then, he took all the gear off again and bet the kids that he could change back into it in less than a minute.
It was all smiles from the kids and Mellon raced to put on his gear as they all chanted “beep, beep, beep,” pretending to be alarms.
After proving that he could change in less than a minute, Mellon sat with the kids and showed them flashcards with pictures and asked if the items pictured were hot or cold. He said he does this because February was Burn Prevention Awareness Month and wants to teach them that hot things shouldn’t be touched or played with.
“We talk about things that are hot and cold in the house to help the kids identify these things so they could watch out for them,” Mellon said. “Hopefully we can prevent some burns.”
Before he left, Mellon gave the kids coloring books and told them to talk about fire safety with their parents when they got home. The kids promised they would and all waved at Mellon as he left.
“This is all about making sure kids are being safe and then also starting the conversation at home,” Mellon said. “This way parents can start talking to kids about fire safety and that family’s plan if there ever is an emergency.”
Mellon advises parents to teach their children how to make an emergency call and to make sure they know their home address.
“If we can catch them young and get good habits going now, that’ll pay off down the road,” Mellon said.