The 2019 class of Gering Junior Fire Patrol is well underway.
On Thursday, March 21, Gering firefighter Jim Lawson said, “This is our second night of our annual junior fire patrol. The class is designed for area fifth graders. We have been doing this since 1961. It is usually a five or six night thing on every Thursday night. There are a variety of different subjects, home fire hazards, fire prevention, home escape plans, the correct use of fire extinguishers, first aid and some basic rescue techniques.
"We have some home inspection assignments that we give the kids, like a home inspection plan that they must complete, a home fire hazard checklist that we like them to go through the home with their parents, as well as a home escape plan. That way, everybody knows that if we have a fire in our home, one, that there are two ways out of every room, and two, where we are going to meet, so when the fire department gets there, we know that everybody is out of the house or if they are not, where they were last seen or sleeping so that we can go in and make the rescue.”
Lawson explained some of the other purposes of junior fire patrol.
“It is fire prevention in the home. Fire safety is the other half of that. How to protect themselves in case of a fire. We will teach them a blanket drag technique, a chair carry technique, in case they have to try to rescue a brother or sister, or try to get a parent out of the house. Some real basic first aid issues, which we would like the kids know.”
The junior fire patrol not only educates students, but also helps the Gering Fire Department with recruitment.
“We have had graduates from the program enter the fire service here in Gering,” said Lawson. “Now, we are getting into our children of those cadets. We are into our third generation and possibly fourth.”
Not every fire department does this, but Lawson said, “There are some across the state. We have taught this class at the Nebraska state fire school to show other fire departments what we are doing out here and what we think works. We changed things this year. We used to give out a plastic badge for all the participants, a membership card and a membership certificate. This year, we decided to forgo the badge and do some T-shirts, which hopefully they can wear to the school and the other kids will say, ‘Where did you get that? How do I get one of those?' and increase our membership.”
The program is not limited to just Gering school district students.
Lawson said, “It is open to all fifth graders. We will take other kids, from other schools, and other communities. We don’t care where they are from, the more we teach the better.”
March 21 was a double night of instruction since class the previous week had been canceled. They studied home fire hazards and fire extinguisher use. The students were allowed to put out a flammable liquid fire with a fire extinguisher. The students were provided with a fire coat and helmet to protect them.
Regan Doll described what it was like to use the fire extinguisher.
“It was kind of scary at first. I have never done it before. Then it was really fun. I was surprised at how quickly it (the fire extinguisher) worked, I thought that it would take a lot longer. I probably could not do it in a real fire, I am a little small, and it is kind of hard for me to hold it. It was pretty easy, after I knew how to do it.”
Doll commented on the coat and hat, too.
“I couldn’t see half the time because the helmet kept falling down over my eyes,” Doll said. “I thought that it would be good to come here and learn about the fires and how you can prevent them from happening. Maybe I will be a firefighter some day.”
Chace Hergenrader said his experience with the fire extinguisher “felt fun. It was exciting, I have never used one before. It was heavy for me and worked fast. The helmet kept falling down because my head is small. It is important to know how to do this, I was scared at first but then I saw how well it worked.”
After the classes are over, they have a celebration.
“We have a graduation on the last night where we invite the parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters,” Lawson said. “We have some refreshments and hand out certificates.
The 2019 Gering fire patrol class is scheduled to graduate on April 11.