Level Volunteer Fire Company camp teaches prevention basics to children


The Level Volunteer Fire Company offered an unusual opportunity last week to children: the Fire Safety Summer Camp.

The camp, in its third year, teaches children some of the basics of fire prevention.

Rhonda Polk, chairwoman of the fire prevention committee for the fire company, said she originated the idea for the camp when VTC she was driving around the county in summer 1992.

"I got the idea from vacation Bible schools," Ms. Polk said. "I was driving around and saw all the signs [for the Bible schools]. . . . I thought we could do fire prevention."

"We haven't had any negative comments," she said.

The cost is minimal. "We ask parents to give a package of presweetened Kool-Aid and a package of cookies," Ms. Polk said.

One of the campers, Alexandra Hannon of Havre De Grace, has attended all three years. The 8-year-old said she learned many important things, which she recited.

Alexandra said she knows about checking and changing batteries in a smoke detector (her family checks their detector once a week), about frayed electrical cords and other fire hazards in the home, about dialing 911 in an emergency, but only in an emergency, and about not playing with matches. She also said children should not start campfires without adult supervision.

"I think if I didn't learn anything about fire safety, I don't know what I would do to be safe," Alexandra said. "Because if you didn't know it, how would you get out of fires?"

In June 1994, the fire company's camp received an award for best special project from the Maryland State Firemen's Association. This year, the camp expanded beyond its usual curriculum of fire prevention.

Although the usual topics of smoke alarms, fire hazards, 911 and Smokey Bear were covered, Ms. Polk said the Bel Air police did two programs -- one on bike safety and one on Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE). Photo IDs also was made for the children, in case they ever are lost or abducted.

This year, the camp had 65 children and five teachers, Ms. Polk said. Four of the teachers were volunteer members of the fire company, and the fifth was with the Delta-Cardiff Volunteer Fire Company in the northern part of the county.

The first year, Ms. Polk said, the fire company did not publicize the camp much because it was not sure what the response would be. About 35 children, ages 4 to 10 attended. Ms. Polk said the fire company increased the publicity for the camp the next year, took on nearly 70 children and provided three teachers.

"I learn a lot of stuff, and I think fire safety camp is fun, because you get to do games and stuff," Alexandra said. "It's not just work."

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