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Six-year-old Zach Ross froze after he and his classmates walked inside Columbus Fire Station 6.
“Whoa!” said Zach, eyes darting all around the building, fire trucks and firefighters waiting to greet him.
Rockcreek Elementary School kindergarteners spent a recent morning on a field trip to the fire station, where they learned about firefighters’ daily lives and fire safety at home and at school.
The about 60 students — the largest school group ever to visit the station — donned red plastic fireman’s helmets gifted to them by the Columbus firefighters. Then, the kids toured the firehouse, hopped aboard a fire engine and experienced a fire safety simulation — complete with fake smoke — inside a child-size trailer made to look similar to a two-story house.
After experiencing the fire simulation, 5-year-old Anthony Dooley said he learned to get away from house fires and the “stinky smoke” and to wait for his parents at a safe meeting place — in this case, the mailbox.
Anthony, who had never been to a fire station before, said he couldn’t believe how “cool” it was.
Kindergartener Alivia Jordan, whose father Chris Jordan is a paramedic with Station 6, said she learned that she should call 9-1-1 if she sees a fire.
Doug Harrison, a paramedic for Columbus Fire Station 5, which lent a team to Station 6 in case the station had to respond to an emergency while Rockcreek visited, said he was glad to have the opportunity to talk to the kindergarteners.
Harrison said the biggest obstacle for firefighters when rescuing young children is that a lot of kids are frightened of firefighters when they are dressed in their full gear. And scared children tend to get quiet and hide — the opposite of what firefighters need to help them, he said.
The Rockcreek kindergarteners learned to crawl low to the ground to keep from breathing in smoke and to yell “help,” “fire” and “9-1-1” to alert others of their location.
Harrison said field trips such as this one, where kids can experience scary situations in a safe and controlled environment, help take away some of their fear, just in case it might happen in real life.
Rockcreek kindergarten teacher Linda Thompson said she was thrilled that the firefighters had allowed her students the opportunity to visit the station.
Thompson said the kindergarteners learned about the seriousness of fire emergencies and the importance of practicing fire drills and having a safe meeting spot at home.
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