A Visit From the "Fighting 45"
“What if I have a Beta fish?”
Our young student had patiently waited with her hand raised to ask this very important question. She and her friends were circled around Firefighter Justin of our local Hughsonville “Fighting 45” Fire Department, who had come to the school to talk about fire safety. Justin was getting a crash course in how a group of 3-7 year olds can turn a simple line of conversation into a fireworks display of semi-tangentially related observations and questions. In true Randolph spirit, he gave weight and validity to all of the comments, and encouraged our students to let the firefighters be in charge of the safety of their toys and pets (even Beta fish!) in the case of a fire.
The visit by our local fire department was a wonderful reminder of how much questioning and learning happens when children are deeply engaged and active in their learning. They watched wide-eyed as one of the firefighters donned his full gear, transforming into a hulking, black-clad and masked entity that bore little resemblance to the smiling, mild-mannered man who had stood before them minutes ago. Sounding a bit like Darth Vader when he breathed through his oxygen tank, the firefighter knelt before the kids and gave them high fives, helping them understand that despite his appearance he was safe and a friend. Students exuberantly demonstrated their knowledge of “stop, drop, and roll” and how to use the back of their hands to feel for a hot door. They wanted to know more, and more, and more: “How do I unlock a window?” “What is an axe?” “Why is the front of your hand more sensitive than the back?” “Why is there less smoke by the floor?”
The kids moved up to the parking lot and were shown the rescue equipment that hung from the side of a Heavy Rescue Vehicle nicknamed “The Beast.” It reminded me of a scene from Richard Scarry’s Busytown come alive, and I watched as many of the children quietly repeated the names of the equipment to themselves, and slowly nodded as they understood the function of each piece. They were deeply internalizing new and fascinating information. The morning was capped by a walk through the inside of the vehicle, and child after child appeared smiling out the back of the truck, jumping safely into the arms of a waiting firefighter, and running to find their friends to share their experience.
The Hughsonville Fire Department was formed over 100 years ago, and first started fighting fires by pulling a 30 gallon tank on two wheels by rope to local houses. I found the following story on their website: “One Saturday morning when a fire broke out…the rig was hooked up to a produce truck owned by Irv Johnson...The truck raced to the fire with the rig in tow. There was no doubt as to where the fire was—the route from the firehouse to the scene of the fire was littered with fruits and vegetables that had been thrown from the truck...” I think the founders would be proud to know that the company they started continues to this day, not only bravely diving into their firefighting and rescue operations, but engaging and inspiring the children of their community in meaningful and important ways as well. Thank you Fighting 45!