Eleven-year-old Amy Eubank steps up to the fire.
Stopping just close enough to feel its heat, she points the nozzle of a fire extinguisher at the orange flames. With the help of a firefighter, she guides plumes of white to and fro until the flames disappear underneath a cloud of white. Eubank slowly steps back into a lineup of students taking in the Western Communities Fire and Life Safety Expo at the Metchosin Fire Hall.
“(This) is invaluable; this type of thing needs to go on whether it is a large format like this, or out at a fire hall, or if it’s individually in the classroom in the municipality,” said Colwood firefighter Dallas Lozoway. “Kids need to see this. They need the hands-on part of fire safety.”
Lozoway and dozens of volunteers were on site cycling through class after class of Grade 4 students, moving them through the eight stations. The children spend approximately 15 minutes at each one before boarding the bus and heading back to school. More than 700 students come through education stations, which range from fire extinguisher use to earthquake safety, wilderness safety to stop, drop, and roll.
“It is very hands on,” said Saseenos elementary teacher Lauren Coombes. “The children get to use the fire extinguishers and they get to see people in the community who get to do this for a living … It’s much better for them to come out here rather than learn it in the classroom.”
She observed her students being very engaged and learning things from the interactive stations. “I’ve had some students who have (experienced the Expo) before and there is knowledge being retained from previous years, so it’s really great to see.”
All West Shore fire departments, West Shore RCMP, CRD dispatch centre and Langford emergency social services come together once a year to offer the event.
Retired Langford deputy fire chief Kerry Zado, on hand for this year’s Expo, says it’s an important joint effort that is all about serving community and saving lives.
“One year we had a young mother with a stove fire put the fire out with (an extinguisher) and slide the pot over the stove. When we got to the call we found out she learned that here in the Fire Safety Expo 16 years earlier,” he said. “That solidifies what we are doing; it is so important. What we say at the start is that the lessons learned here today could save your life.”