Merrill Fire Department Public Education Programs
Fire Prevention Month was a busy month for the Merrill Fire Department and grade school students in the Merrill Area School District. Merrill Firefighters completed fire prevention training from pre-school classes though the 4th grade. Each grade receives a different fire safety message, building upon what the students learned the year before. Approximately 1,300 students from 69 classes were instructed on life-saving fire prevention material.
During Fire Prevention Month, the firefighters spent most of the school days in the classrooms to instruct all of the students. During this public education cycle, students in all grades were given “homework” from the firefighters. The goals of the fire safety projects were simple. First, it was an opportunity to confirm that the students were absorbing the material that they were presented. Second, it got the fire safety message home to the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends and neighbors. They are the ones who change the batteries in smoke alarms and fix safety hazards around the house. Finally, the program continues to nurture the relationship that is developed between students and firefighters.
The Merrill Fire Department’s public education program focuses on building relationships with students through a variety of fire safety messages and presentations. The department utilized donations from local businesses and found low-cost material on-line to keep material costs down. Even the prizes were relatively inexpensive and included activities with the Merrill firefighters. Most of the winning classes in each grade had 100% completion on their fire prevention project. Some grades even had multiple class winners.
In pre-school, the fire safety message focused on “Firefighters our Friends.” The project included dressing a paper firefighter in turnout gear. Parents then signed off on the project and teachers recorded who completed the project. The winning pre-school classes were the afternoon and morning students from St. Francis. Mrs. Shimel and Mrs. Annis’ classes were served snack time by Merrill firefighters and then enjoyed some outside play time together.
Mrs. Smukoski’s class at St. John was the sole winner for kindergarten classes. Their fire safety message and project was “I Spot Something Hot.” The message focused on things around the house that could burn them. They enjoyed a popcorn and movie party with Merrill firefighters at their school.
1st grade had multiple winners with their smoke alarm checklist project. Mrs. Marnholz from Trinity, Mrs. Hagemeister from Jefferson, and Mrs. Schroeder and Mrs. Hass from Washington were all pizza party recipients. Firefighters served pizza to each of the classes at their school.
Recognizing an emergency and learning how to dial 9-1-1 was the subject of the 2nd grade training. There were multiple winners in this grade as well. Mrs. Fritz’s class from St. John, Mrs. Fugere-Brown’s class from Washington, and Mrs. Carlson’s class from Jefferson all received an ice cream party with firefighters.
The public education project in 3rd grade was for students to develop a home escape plan for their house. Only one class, Jefferson’s Mrs. Walsh, won the opportunity to challenge firefighters in their game of choice. After the big game, MFD staff will provide refreshments for those 3rd grade students.
In 4th grade, which is the last grade of formal public education training by the Merrill Fire Department, students have the challenge to become “Smoke Detectives.” Similar to the fire prevention inspections that MFD provide bi-annually to local businesses, 4th grade students needed to complete a fire safety home inspection. Four of the 11 classes were up to the challenge. The winners received the grand prize of lunch at the firehouse. Merrill firefighters prepared and served a spaghetti dinner at Station #1 for each class. The winners were: Mrs. Kroll from Jefferson, Mrs. Schultz from Washington, Mrs. Hoeppner from Kate Goodrich, and Mrs. Osness/Mrs. VanLieshout from Kate Goodrich.
Supporters of the Merrill Fire Department’s public education program are numerous and diverse. Some business and organizations made monetary donations to help with the program and materials. They include; Ballyhoos, Burgener Contract Carriers, Central Carpet & Flooring, Charles Sowieja D.D.S., Eye Clinic of Wisconsin, Fraternal Order of the Eagles, Gruett’s Appliance, Helping Hands Bargain Center, J&J Construction, Jay Schmelling, Jo Ellen James, Johnson Gifts & Collectables, Karen Karau, KB Body Shop, LeRoy’s Hair Care, Lincoln Community Bank, Marshfiled Clinic, Merrill Housing Authority, Optimist Club, Park City Credit Union, SGS Environmental, Wire Products Corporation, and Z-Best Car Wash. In addition to those making financial contributions, local businesses helped in other ways. Family Video, the Cosmo Theater, and Pizza Hut all helped support the mission with gifts in kind donations. The Merrill Fire Department thanks everyone for their outstanding support and encourages the community to patronize our local businesses.
Due to a snow day cancellation of school, Mrs. Kroll’s, 4th grade class from Jefferson, was the last class to enjoy spaghetti, salad, garlic bread and milk at the fire station. Merrill Fire Fighters prepared, served and sat down and ate lunch with the class, after a station tour. “The kids were really cranked up after the tour, but those kids could really eat,” said firefighter cook John Kraegenbrink. With spaghetti sauce on their faces, the stories told back and forth between the firefighters and kids was really something special to see. Before leaving, when asked if they enjoyed their trip to the station a raucous cheer rang out from the Jefferson 4th graders, Sawyer Schmitz stated “I liked learning about the different fire trucks”, Allison Palecek said she liked “the food”, Andrew Tritten exclaimed he liked the “trucks and the pole” the best, last Marjorie Alvey added “learning about the Fire Station and its history was cool!”
The Merrill Fire Department is proud of the public education and fire prevention work that has been done, but realizes that it takes a team approach to accomplish their goal of preventing fires and emergencies in the Merrill area. Teachers, students, parents, supporters, and firefighters working together can make a difference in the safety of the Merrill community. The fire department believes this modification to our public education program will continue to yield positive results in the future. While the focus of fire prevention is front and center during Fire Prevention Month, fires can happen anytime and anywhere. The Merrill Fire Department and its firefighters are proud of the students and glad to have them on our fire safety team.
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