Fire Prevention Week: Local children get a glimpse of firefighters' life and work

Friday, October 9, 2009
From left, Anna Autry, Krislyn Hurd and Jason Masey, all 8-year-olds, and Deanna Masey and Michelle McNeeley listen to Firefighter Sheldon Kerksiek during a visit by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the Marshall Fire Department Wednesday, Oct. 7, as part of Fire Prevention Week. (Geoff Rands/Democrat-News)

A group of youth from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints came to the Marshall Fire Department Wednesday evening, Oct. 7, to take a tour and hear some tips about fire safety from Firefighter Sheldon Kerksiek, who has served at MFD for 23 years, as part of Fire Prevention Week.

Kerksiek told the children about life at the fire station.

Three shifts of workers rotate on 24-hour shifts from 7 a.m. until 7 a.m. the next morning, he said.

From left, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints youth and leaders Anna Autry, 8; Jason Masey, 8; Michelle McNeeley; Eric Vereyken, 10; and Krislyn Hurd, 8, listen to Marshall Firefighter Sheldon Kerksiek as he tells about how firefighters respond to reports of fire. (Geoff Rands/Democrat-News)

"If they don't show up, we don't leave," Kerksiek said. "Seven days a week, all year long, somebody's in this building."

He explained the way the department responds to fires, saying firefighters always take two trucks, one of which goes directly to the scene while the other stops at a fire hydrant in case additional water is needed.

"It takes the whole department" to extinguish a fire, he said.

But, Kerksiek added, within 30 minutes of putting on the firefighting gear, "you're ready to sit down."

The heat, both inside the gear and from outside it in a building that has caught fire, is the main reason for this exhaustion, he said.

Kerksiek also gave tips for fire safety, explaining the "stop, drop and roll" method for when a person or that person's clothing has caught fire.

Melody Ferrer, 10, tries on a firefighter's helmet while, from left, 8-year-olds Melvin Mendez and Anna Autry look on during the visit of youth from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to the fire station Wednesday, Oct. 7, as part of Fire Prevention Week. (Geoff Rands/Democrat-News)

In explaining what to do if a smoke alarm sounds in the middle of the night, Kerksiek said, "The first thing you need to do is just open your eyes," cautioning them not to immediately jump out of bed.

"All the good air to breathe is going to be on the floor," he said, "so ... if you jump up, at first it makes it difficult to breathe, and if you breathe a lot of it, it'll make you go to sleep."

He urged that after the children assess the situation from their bed, they roll out of bed and crawl on their hands and knees toward the door, which they should touch.

"If it's hot, then there's fire on the other side of the door, and you don't want to open it. Leave it shut," he said.

If a bedroom door is open when the smoke alarm sounds and the child can smell or see smoke, he or she should close the door immediately.

He instructed the children to then go to their windows. If they're on the first floor, they should simply climb out and then call for firefighters, but if they're up high, they should open a window and wait by it for the captain, who will immediately walk around the house when the firefighting team arrives on the scene.

"Make sure he sees you," Kerksiek said.

If children see someone playing with matches, lighters or campfires, said Kerksiek, they should tell a grown-up.

Krislyn Hurd, 8, tries on a firefighter's helmet during a tour by youth and youth leaders from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of the Marshall Fire Department Wednesday, Oct. 7, as part of Fire Prevention Week. (Geoff Rands/Democrat-News)

"It's kind of fun to look at while it's little, but it gets big real fast," he said. "If you see somebody littler than you, you have to tell a grown-up. ... If somebody's bigger than you, tell a grown-up, because they're not supposed to be doing it either."

He told the children that if any of them becomes involved in some way with the starting of a fire, "don't go hide. Don't keep it a secret. Go tell a grown-up. It's better to tell a grown-up and get it taken care of than if you keep it a secret and the fire gets big (and) hurts somebody."

Kerksiek gave some hints for fire safety in recreational vehicles, saying it is important to have at least two exits from the bedroom and know how to exit the vehicle quickly. He also stressed the need for a smoke detector and a fire extinguisher wherever people sleep.

He also told the children -- and the adults -- that just because a fire theoretically shouldn't start, such as while everyone is sleeping, fire safety should still be kept in mind.

Marshall Firefighter Sheldon Kerksiek, center, tells about the department's fire trucks while, from left, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints youth and leaders Michelle McNeeley; Melody Ferrer, 10; Anna Autry, 8; Eric Vereyken, 10; Jason Masey, 8; Krislyn Hurd, 8; Deanna Masey; and Melvin Mendez, 8, listen and look on. (Geoff Rands/Democrat-News)

"(I don't know) how many times people over the years have told me 'That shouldn't have happened.' It will happen. You don't want it to, you don't think it will, but it will happen."

After letting the children look at the fire trucks, Engineer Jesse Coslet showed them an infrared camera firefighters use for several reasons. Low visibility through smoke makes it helpful, he said, as does locating a "hot spot" that often exists when occupants sense an odd smell.

The camera was purchased for approximately $15,000 through a grant from Monsanto.

"Thank you so much, that was awesome," said 8-year-old Anna Autry at the end of the presentation.

Kerksiek said that each year, firefighters work to give presentations on fire safety to every class from preschool to second grade in town, and even to out-of-town schools such as Hardeman. Coslet added that schools from Pettis County come to see the station.

Contact Geoff Rands at

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  • Keep up the good work, Fella's!!!

    -- Posted by Takealoadoff on Fri, Oct 9, 2009, at 1:11 PM
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