Fire department fund drive under way

MICHAEL KELLY The Marietta Times Children from Lyndsey Bennett’s kindergarten class at Phillips Elementary School scramble out of the Marietta Fire Department mobile fire safety house during an exercise Tuesday morning. Fire Capt. Rodney Scott and 25-year firefighter Pat Molden gave the children a chance to experience an escape from a smoke-filled building, after which they assembled, counted to make sure everyone got out and called 911 on a phone connected to the trailer.

For the past 17 years the Marietta Fire Department has sent a letter to the community on Oct. 1, asking residents to support a campaign to save lives and property.

Every year, the community comes through, firefighter Daniel Hammer said.

The donations support, among other things, the department’s S.A.F.E. program — Smoke Alarms For Everyone. Funding is used to buy smoke detectors and other fire prevention and education equipment. In the first year, smoke detectors were given to every student in Marietta schools in grades kindergarten through five, and every year since then the devices have been given to all kindergarten students in the system.

Standing in a bay of the main fire hall downtown Tuesday morning, Hammer said firefighters see the impact of smoke detectors, or the lack of them, on nearly every call they make.

When crews arrive at a fire, they can often hear the screech of smoke detectors still sounding as they approach the building, he said.

“They work,” Hammer said. “The numbers are amazing.”

The department gives them to students, hands them out at the department, and given the time will check smoke detectors on emergency medical runs and minor fires.

“We keep them in our vehicles, and sometimes we check and give them out on calls,” he said.

The S.A.F.E. campaign donations, which Hammer said already are coming in, allow the department to purchase large lots of the devices. The department starts with about 1,000, he said, and replenishes as the supply goes down.

“Historically, fires have gone down, and I’d like to think that we’ve had something to do with that,” he said.

In a corner of the bay, Sparky the Fire Dog sat quietly as its battery charged. The fire safety robot is used when children tour the fire hall, Hammer said. The department was able to buy it from an Oregon vendor a couple of years ago when the S.A.F.E. campaign was particularly successful, and Hammer said he’s seen how effective a talking robotic dog mounted on a miniature fire engine can be as a way of communicating with children.

Hammer, who is president of Marietta Firefighters Local No. 442, found the robot at a vendor display at a firefighters’ convention. It cost about $10,000, he said, and it’s worth the expense.

“I can talk about fire safety and see their attention drifting away, but when they hear it from Sparky, they’ll talk and listen all day long,” he said. “He’s an awesome tool.”

A couple miles to the east, Lyndsey Bennett’s kindergarten class at Phillips Elementary School was getting a hands-on demonstration about survival as Capt. Rodney Scott and firefighter Pat Molden showed the 20 children the features of the department’s mobile fire safety house.

The first thing they pulled out to show the class was a smoke detector.

“In Marietta, we don’t see a lot of big fires, and that’s because of smoke detectors,” Molden said as Scott spoke to the children about not going back into a burning building, having a predetermined assembly point for the family in case of fire, keeping low to the floor in smoke-filled rooms and checking for heat before opening doors.

The S.A.F.E. campaign continues throughout the year. To contribute, send a check payable to Marietta Firefighters Local No. 442 to the City Building, Third and Putnam, Marietta, Ohio, 45750, or drop the donation off at the main fire hall on Third Street. For information, contact the fire department at 740-373-4631 and ask to speak to a firefighter.

At a glance

National Fire Prevention Month

Marietta Fire Department campaign

¯ Campaign started: 2000.

¯ Goals: Fire prevention education, distribution of smoke alarms to prevent fires and save lives.

¯ For Information: 740-373-4631.