Elementary students across Conway will have the opportunity to spend time with local firefighters and learn about fire safety throughout the month.
The fire-safety routine includes a puppet show for students in kindergarten and first grade, while all Conway students from kindergarten to the fourth grade are welcomed to an educational tour of the mobile smokehouse.
October 7-13 is National Fire Prevention Week. However, the Conway Fire Department spends three weeks making rounds to each private and public school in the city to ensure children know how to respond if a fire ignites.
On Friday, the Log Cabin Democrat had the opportunity to sit in on puppet show performances at Jim Stone Elementary.
Students clapped and cheered throughout the performance after spending the morning anticipating time with local firefighters.
Jim Stone Principal Mark Lewis said administrators are thankful for the relationship Conway schools have with the fire department and that these fun, outreach programs could potentially save children's lives.
"It goes without saying that the professionalism the firefighters show these kids is immeasurable," he said. "The kids look up to them and they pay attention. We know that this could ultimately save their lives and their families lives."
Assistant Chief Kenny Wiedower, who helped man the smokehouse, said these preventative simulations have proven to make a difference locally.
While the children truly enjoy themselves, they also take in much of the information relayed to them through the interactive puppet shows and smokehouse simulators.
"We've had kids that have been in fires and they've come back later to tell us they remembered what we talked to them about and knew what to do," he said.
Cpt. Phillip Short educated children from within the smokehouse simulator on the importance of having two ways out and always planning ahead to be prepared should a fire spark in the night.
Short stressed the importance of having two clear paths out of every room in the house and for students to make sure they know how to open and close their bedroom windows in the event they may have to climb out to escape a fire.
Before the smokehouse simulator truck filled with smoke, Short explained why each child needs to sit down with their family to discuss and plan out a meeting place. Meeting spots could include a tree in the yard, a mailbox, fence, neighbor's driveway and more, he said while also reminding children not to go back inside their homes during a house fire.
Before dismissing children from the simulator, he gave each child a homework assignment: to go home and check their smoke detectors and build a safe spot (a meeting location) to run to should their home catch fire.
Those who aided in the puppet show included Luke Birdsong, Kenny Bartlett, Chad Upton and Mac Baker.
Between the puppet show skits, Bartlett remind children that when "the smoke goes up, we go down" and crawl away to safety.
Also during the puppet show, children learned through energetic songs not to mess around with matches or lighters and that if their clothes were ever to catch fire to stop, drop and roll.
"It's very important that you guys remember this," Bartlett said to a room full of children Friday morning. "I don't want any of y'all to get hurt. So remember these tricks when you're at home or out camping."
Kim Turner, who teaches Jim Stone kindergartners, said the children look forward to their time with the firefighters and always anticipate the puppet show.
"They can't wait for the firefighters to get here," she said. "When they see they trucks rolling in, they're pumped."
Fellow kindergarten teacher Kendra Rimlinger said CFD's outreach with the community shows local children that Conway firefighters are their friends and care about their safety.
Cpt. Short said CFD has partnered with Centennial Bank to make these fire safety rounds possible.
Centennial Bank has helped purchase prevention materials, including fire safety activity books and pencils for the children.