GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Smoke billowed from a camper truck and a smoke detector rang from inside. As a window opened, pre-kindergarten children, one by one, crawled onto the ledge and were pulled out to safer ground.
As Fire Safety Prevention Week gets underway, the Hartsdale Fire Department taught the children at the Woodlands Early Childhood Program how to protect themselves during a fire. A firefighter, clad in a bunker uniform, spoke to the children and helped them through the window of the smokehouse camper.
"This is the first time that we have a smokehouse," said Dawn Mair-Male, the principal director of the Childhood Program. "It was always believed that the children were too young for the smokehouse. But research shows that a lot of young children who are in fire situations end up with smoke inhalation because they don't know what to do. So we're saying that you're never too young to learn about fire safety."
Fireman Erik van den Berge was one of the officers on hand to show the young students what a fireman looks like and what to do if a fire were to break out.
"You want to run to him and give him a hug," said van den Berge. "We don't want you to be scared of us. That's why we want you to know what we look like."
The children were escorted to the smoke room, which filled with harmless smoke. When the children touched a door that was hot, they found another exit, as they were taught to do. Climbing out of the window to safety, they had experienced a fire simulation.
Firefighters can be scary in a dark room when a lot is going on, said Debbie Diones, a Woodlands case worker, who was happy to have the firefighters teach about safety. Last year, she said, the students visited the Hartsdale Fire Department, but did not experience the smokehouse.
"This is how you get kids, at ages three and four, who know what to do and how to call 911," said Nancy Pappas, the school nurse.
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