Howard children honored for putting fire safety lessons to use

Jacob Rand learned about fire safety from a program sponsored by the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue, which tells children that in the event of a house fire don't look for its source — just get out.

The Fulton Elementary School third-grader didn't know that someday he would utter that directive. But on Aug. 25, he smelled smoke in his Fulton home and was the only family member who heard the fire alarm, because his siblings were asleep, his father had left the house and his mother, Vicki, was in the shower.

"I told everybody to get out of the house," said Jacob, who added that when his mother said she needed to get her cell phone, he said, "No, we need to get out."

Aided by his sister, Rosette, Jacob did get everyone, including his mother and preschool-age sister, out of the house. And for their heroics, the two were honored by the Department of Fire and Rescue at their school on Tuesday before family, classmates and faculty.

Both children received the Fire and Rescue's "Safety House Hero Award" certificate and an official Fire and Rescue T-shirt. Both of their classes received Fire and Rescue pencils.

Fire and Rescue public information officer Jackie Cutler said that the award is the first ever given by the department. She said that the department will award more certificates to children who put to use what they've learned about fire safety.

Vicki Rand said she stopped by a firehouse and relayed the story.

Rosette, a second-grader, stood before classmates as firefighter Dylan Murray gave her the Fire and Rescue T-shirt. "I know it's a little big, but you'll be able to grow into it," said Murray.

"It's really rewarding; you talk to kids all the time about fire safety, but you always wonder if you're getting through to them," said Murray. "It's good to see someone put what you've taught them to use."

Murray instructs students via a program called Safety House, which includes a replica mobile home consisting of a kitchen, living room and bedroom that allows firefighters to demonstrate various scenarios involving house fires.

Jacob's father, Christopher Rand, said that the family's house fire was started by a propane heater that they ultimately discovered was installed incorrectly. "It mounts on the wall and it heats as you use the water," said Rand. "The last couple of years a lot of soot has built up into the chimney of that heater, and it caught on fire. It was smoking like crazy.

"My wife was in the shower, and Jacob heard the fire alarm going off. He went and got everybody. My wife was kind of dismissive about this fire. And he's saying, 'Let's get outside.' He more or less stayed calm and ushered everybody out of the house."

Rand said it was "a serious fire." The heater had to be reinstalled, but he added that there was no damage to the house's roofing system.

The Rands raise chickens on a farm in Fulton, where Jacob said, "We have baby chicks in the incubator," but he said he knew they had to leave all of their possessions behind, even if momentarily.

The Rands were honored during National Fire Prevention Week. Murray gave Rosette's class a homework assignment to go home and test their smoke alarms, and he told them to practice fire drills at home as well.

"Every single month, you should go home and test your smoke alarms," he said.

"Fire prevention and education are a vital part of our mission," Howard County Fire Chief William F. Goddard III, who also visited the school to honor the Rands, said in a statement.

"Nationally, children are one of the highest segments of the population at risk for fire-related injury and death," Goddard added. "Each year, we visit every elementary school in Howard County in order to lay the foundation that fire safety and prevention are everyday lessons."

joseph.burris@baltsun.com

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