The most popular activity for children at the Fire Prevention Week program last night in Lehighton was the fire extinguisher.
Youngsters waited in long lines for a chance to spray liquid at a simulated blaze, essentially extinguishing it. After spraying for a short period, most had a satisfied smile. They had vanquished the fiery villain.
More than 300 children attended the program staged at Station 1 of the Lehighton Fire Department despite steady rain. The event was a joint effort of the Lehighton, Franklin Township, and Mahoning Township fire departments.
"This was the best turnout in years for a Fire Prevention Week program here," said Lt. Steve Ebbert of the Lehighton Fire Department, a coordinator. It's the first time the three departments have joined together for such an event.
Lt. Mark Hayman of the Mahoning Valley Fire Department suggested it might become an annual event.
"It was centrally located," Hayman said. "We (the three departments) all work together when we have an emergency."
Franklin Township Fire Company will hold its own Fire Prevention Program tonight at the fire house, beginning at 6:30 p.m. The open house will also include various activities. The Carbon County Emergency Management Agency and the Lehighton Ambulance Association also will participate.
In Franklin tonight, a landing by a medical transport helicopter is also planned.
The fire extinguisher and fire simulator were provided by the Mahoning fire company last night. The simulator was a large frame with red flickering inside it, powered by electricity. Water was placed into the extinguishers. Firefighters showed youngsters the proper way to use the extinguisher and as water hit the frame, the flickering subsided.
Another big hit was the safe house provided by the Franklin Township Fire Company. Lt. Thomas Chew was one of the instructors in the safe house, which has a simulated kitchen, working smoke alarms, and fake smoke. To the rear, there's a small ladder that children descend to exit.
In the kitchen, a pot was on a "stove" with a burner that glowed red.
When Chew said the ingredients in the pot had caught fire, children raised their hands, telling him how to extinguish it.
"What happens if all these cupboards would start burning?" asked Chew, a tone of urgency in his voice.
"We'd use the extinguisher," said one little girl.
"I'm talking about a really big fire," responded Chew.
Another youngster responded that you would exit the house and call 9-1-1.
Chew also had a child demonstrate the "stop, drop, and roll" technique if an item of clothing caught on fire.
The smoke alarm was sounded so children would know what the wailing represented.
The youngsters crawled through simulated smoke and exited to the rear of the safe house.
Visitors to the open house were permitted to crawl on the apparatus. They found the cab of the firetrucks especially interesting.
The ladder on the aerial truck of the Lehighton Fire Department was extended and firefighters climbed it. They had planned for more outside demonstrations but the weather conditions prohibited it.
Lehighton Fire Chief Gary Frable watched approvingly.
"They did a good job," Frable said of the planning committee. "They did their homework. I'm very impressed with the program."
Firefighter trading cards were handed out. Individuals who had an orange mark on their cards got a free smoke detector.
Ebbert said children from the Shull-David and Mahoning Township elementary schools who attended and asked questions got a homework pass signed.