Zion Lutheran students enjoy breakfast at the city of Lincoln Firehouse

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[October 10, 2014]  LINCOLN - On Monday morning, the city of Lincoln Fire Department hosted a pancake breakfast for students from Zion Lutheran School. Each year at the beginning of National Fire Prevention week the department invites one school of 3rd graders to spend the morning at the fire station.

According to the coordinator of the event, fire inspector Tim Aper, this year the students in kindergarten through fourth-grade were invited. He said because Zion Lutheran enjoys smaller class sizes than many of the local schools, the department and the school decided to bring in multiple grades this year.

The day began with pancakes and sausage with milk and orange juice. Claude VanFossan was on hand once again this year to cook up the pancakes, and firefighters prepared the sausages in the department kitchen located on the second floor of the firehouse.

Department staff on hand to help with the morning of activities included Chief Mark Miller, assistant Chief Steve Dahm, Inspector Aper, firefighters Chris Perrine, Chad Kern, James Reed, and visitor for the day Stepfanie Janisch.

Janisch was at the station for a ride-along day. She is a student from Wisconsin, visiting Lincoln with a very close friend who is from the area. She said that she plans to go into the medical field, has her Emergency Medical Technitian certification, and was hoping to go out on a few calls with the Lincoln rescue squad. Before the morning over, she did get the opportunity to go out on one rescue call to Friendship Manor.

According to Aper, the department goes out on seven to eight calls per day, and 72 percent of them are medical related.

After enjoying their meal, the students then had an educational session with Inspector Aper, who talked about what to do when a fire occurs and how to handle finding stray matches or lighters. He also spoke about the importance of smoke detectors. He quizzed the kids and teachers with questions about what to do when a fire occurs, and how often to check and change batteries in a smoke detector.

Prior to getting started, Chief Miller requested that the local 9-1-1 dispatch do a test call-out so the students would know what that sounded like inside the station. When the test came through, the dispatcher acknowledged the Zion Lutheran students and said she hoped they enjoyed their day at the station. When the call-out finished, Aper told the children that if this should happen in real life while they are at the firehouse, they should be perfectly quiet and stay exactly where they are in the room. He explained that, of the firefighters in the building, some were on duty while others had volunteered to help with the student’s field day. The ones on duty would answer the call, and the volunteers would stay with the children.

When a few minutes later, the dispatch alarm sounded, every child did exactly what was asked of them, and they received praise for good behavior from Aper and firefighter Perrine.

When Aper finished discussing fire safety and prevention with the kids, the group was divided into two parts. One part went upstairs to the department offices and living spaces for a tour led by firefighter Williams. The other group stayed downstairs where firefighter Perrine gave them a demonstration of how he puts on his firefighting gear.

In his presentation, Perrine talked to the children about not being afraid or hiding from a firefighter when they are in a burning building. He demonstrated how his voice sounded while wearing an oxygen mask and talked about the noises his equipment makes when he is fighting a fire.

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Upstairs, firefighter Williams talked about the age of the firehouse and pointed out pictures of the early years of the department. He shared the story of firefighter Bahn who died of cancer, and a special helmet that was signed after the tragedy of September 11.

In the main hall of the upstairs, kids enjoyed looking at the walls of photos taken of fires the department had put out over the years. They were shown the map of the city and Williams explained some of the special markings on the map such as hydrant locations.

The kids were shown the office areas, and the kitchen where the firefighters prepare their meals while on duty. Finally, they went into the sleeping area or dormitory. Among the more interesting aspects of that room for the kids was the slide pole used by firefighters to quickly descend from the second floor to the ground floor of the building.

Williams explained that up until 1995 the pole was the best alternative for getting to the ground floor. If the pole was not used, then the firefighters had to run all the way to the front of the building, which is the city hall area, go down the stairs, then run all the way to the back of the building where the fire station is located.

In 1995, there was a renovation of the station and City Hall. At that time, the elevator was added at the front of the building, and a back stairwell was added. The stairway was technically added for safety reasons, to provide an additional means of escape from the second floor during an emergency, but it also benefited the firefighters.

Williams said, today some of the firefighters still use the pole while others take the stairs.

Later in the morning, when the two groups of students were back together, Williams and Chief Miller slid down the pole for them to see.

After all, this, the student’s went outside where Aper talked to them about the fire trucks and the equipment that is stored on them. Firefighter Perrine assisted each kid in handling a fire hose and shooting water at the fake flames in the department squirt house. The kids also had their picture taken in a firefighting scene.

Finally, firefighter Williams raised the ladder on engine 5102 so the kids could watch. When he had the ladder extended, he climbed about half-way up it and took a picture of the group below with a school camera.

Throughout the rest of the month, Lincoln Firefighters will visit city schools and offer education on fire safety and prevention. With the theme of this year’s fire prevention week being “Working smoke alarms saves lives” the lessons at the schools will also emphasize the importance of smoke alarms.

[Nila Smith]

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