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Learning not to burn

SAFE grants fund area fire prevention programs

A Southbridge firefighter removes smoldering firewood from the basement where the wood fueled a fire sparked from a woodstove last week. A new round of SAFE grant funds will help the department improve fire safety education in schools. Gus Steeves. (click for larger version)
December 21, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — The Southbridge Fire Department is among seven area departments awarded through the Student Awareness of Fire Education (SAFE) Program.

Southbridge received $5,415 to help train firefighter-educators in the classroom to conduct fire education safety programs in pre-kindergarten to the 12th grade. Charlton, East Brookfield, West Brookfield, Brookfield, Oxford, Spencer and Dudley also received money from the grant.

Gary Peck, of the Southbridge Fire Department, wrote the grant proposal for Southbridge this year. This was the first year he had done so alone, although he had taken part in writing it with a group in the past few years. Grant proposals are necessary every year and must be sent by September for the next year.

"We teach each grade level different aspects and focus on different things," said Peck. "We teach pre-kindergarten to the third grade not to play with matches or lighters and how to call 911. For the fourth grade to the sixth, we demonstrate EDITH (exit drills in the home.) In the higher grades, we are geared towards in-depth home and campfire safety. Once they reach high school, we show them 'prom drills,' which shows how dangerous drunk driving is and showing them a car that was destroyed the night of a prom. We haven't had the money to show them the car in the past few years. Hopefully, this program will allow us to do so."

Another improvement that Peck hopes the grant will fix is are the safety videos shown in schools. According to Peck, they are drastically out of date, some from as far back as the '70s and are on VHS. None of the videos deal with more recent issues, such as carbon monoxide poisoning.

"We have a lot of things planned for the grant," said Tricia Allen, S.A.F.E. Coordinator for the East Brookfield Fire Department. "The money will go for CPR classes, new folding tables for demonstrations, blood pressure screenings and promotional items like frizbees that we give out to kids."

For more on this story, please see tomorrow's Southbridge Evening News.

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