The Swift Current Fire Department had to make adjustments to the regular format for Fire Prevention Week, but it is still sharing the message of fire safety and also using creative ways through a unique new fire safety colouring book.
The City of Swift Current proclaimed Oct. 4-10 as Fire Prevention Week in the community. The focus of this year’s campaign is fire safety in the kitchen.
The National Fire Protection Association’s theme for the 2020 Fire Prevention Week campaign is “Serve up fire safety in the kitchen!”
“The majority of house fires that happen throughout North America are kitchen fires,” Swift Current Deputy Fire Chief Pete L’Heureux said. “As people become busier, they're also more distracted and we're often multi-tasking. We're getting kids ready while we're cooking or we're checking e-mails or social media or doing other things, and maybe not giving as much attention to cooking and fire safety in the kitchen as we should. … It's just a good reminder to give a little more attention to what you're doing in the kitchen, especially when you're cooking.”
A few moments of inattentiveness or briefly turning away from the stove can have consequences that are far more serious than just burnt food.
“The small pot on the stove turns into some burned cupboard, sometimes burned cupboards turn into a burned out kitchen,” he said. “Sometimes the pot on the stove with a little bit of smoke turns into a whole house fire when we're not paying attention. Fire grows very quickly and it's just a few seconds in-between a pot boiling over on the stove to having your kitchen cupboards or your kitchen on fire.”
The Swift Current Fire Department will often deal with kitchen fires when firefighters respond to fire related call outs.
“Fairly often it is a pot on the stove, and lots of calls where they've contained the fire to the stove and they call us to help to get the smoke out of the building, or where the pot on the stove has started to burn the kitchen cupboards and we've caught it there or even the homeowner has caught it there and extinguished it and called us to take a look and make sure it didn't get into the walls or burn more seriously,” he said. “It's becoming more and more common for us to see these small kitchen fires and some of the last fires that we've had, have been kitchen fires that grew into house fires.”
Various simple steps can be taken to avoid a dangerous situation in a kitchen. Clear clutter away to reduce the chance of a kitchen fire, keep flammable and combustible material away from the stovetop, do not wear loose clothing that can catch fire, always keep a lid nearby to slide over a pan or pot when there is small fire, and have a multipurpose ABC class fire extinguisher at hand.
This will be a very different Fire Prevention Week for the Swift Current Fire Department due to the precautionary COVID-19 health measures that have to be followed.
“For years we've done fire chief for the day and ride to school in a fire truck, we've had heavy interaction with the schools as far as programming and interaction with the kids, and we do seniors presentations,” L’Heureux said. “This year we won't be doing any presentations, we won't be in the schools, and we're trying to do a contact free Fire Prevention Week in trying to limit the exposure and the transfer in-between facilities and different places, and also trying to make sure that we keep our staff safe and the public safe.”
This is a significant change and obviously a disappointment for the department, because prevention and education are key focus areas for them.
“There's no better way to get a message out than to actually be there and educate somebody and be with them and spend time and explain things,” he said. “So for us that's a big change.”
The department has therefore developed other means to spread the message of fire safety, including a significant focus on social media. Information and prize packages will still be distributed to local schools.
“The prizes and the activities are going to be based on things that happen at the school or as a prize, as opposed to winning the fire chief for a day or ride to school on a fire truck, where we would need to interact,” he explained.
Students will be able to win some unique items as prizes, including exclusive Swift Current Fire Department t-shirts, hats and backpacks. The grand prize winners will each receive a real fire helmet.
“It's not something that you could just go out and buy at your downtown store,” he said. “They sell lots of replicas and plastic facsimiles for kids, but this is going to be a real fire helmet. We're going to have the winner’s names put on them, one from each school.”
The Swift Current Fire Department’s brand-new fire safety colouring book will also be distributed in local schools. It has been created exclusively for the fire department, and is a result of a collaborative effort with the Art Gallery of Swift Current and other City departments as well as the Swift Current Shrine Club.
The colouring book was written and illustrated by local artist Morghie Flaterud in a comic book format. Scenes in the colouring book include familiar local buildings such as the historic fire hall and old downtown buildings, and the story takes place against the backdrop of the annual Frontier Days parade and the Shriners band.
“It's fully custom,” L’Heureux said. “We made the script with our friends at the art gallery, we came up with great ideas and fun things, there's some activities, and there's some crossword puzzles. … It's our fire hall, its got our logos on it, it's our fire truck, and different places that people will recognize. So it's an interesting colouring book, it's a great idea, and we're very excited to be doing it.”
The back page of the colouring book includes a junior firefighter application that children can cut out and mail to the fire department within the next year. In return, they will receive an official identification card from the Swift Current Fire Department to confirm their status as a junior firefighter.
“I think kids will feel special and that was part of it too,” he said. “How do we get kids involved and active in doing different things.”
A total of 2,500 colouring books will be distributed. The Swift Current Shrine Club contributed funding towards the production of the book. The club will receive 1,000 copies for distribution in the community over the next year.
The fire department will keep 100 for distribution to fire hall visitors, and the remaining 1,400 colouring books will be distributed within the next few weeks in association with Fire Prevention Week. These books will include colouring pencil packs, and each pack of 12 colouring pencils is decorated with the Swift Current Fire Department logo and two characters from the colouring book.
Along with all the fun, these colouring books contain information to promote the important message of fire prevention and safety.
“The whole point is to have fire prevention material and activities,” he said. “If we save one person as far as education from a burn or from a house fire, then we've done a great job in helping to educate people.”