Families learn Fire Facts at Norwich library presentation

By Jennifer Vandermeer, Norwich Gazette/IngersollTimes


There's no need to be afraid of a firefighter – despite how they may look and sound when they're decked out in their full firefighting gear.

That was one of the messages delivered to a group of more than 30 adults and children who attended a special Fire Facts fire safety presentation at the Norwich Library Wednesday, Jan. 10.

Derek VanPagee, a volunteer firefighter and training officer, and District Chief Ross Pollock, of Station 2 (Norwich) of the Norwich Township Fire Service were on hand to talk about what a firefighter wears, what tools they use, what they do when they receive and emergency call and tips for families to be fire safe.

VanPagee dispelled any fears the young members of the audience may have had about firefighters by donning all of his firefighting gear, one piece at a time, until he was in full garb, including helmet, gloves and breathing apparatus. The breathing apparatus made VanPagee's voice sound different than normal.

“If you see me in your house shouting, “Norwich Fire Department. Here to help you,” don't be afraid of me,” VanPagee told the group, made up mostly of young children.

“I have to wear a whole bunch of special gear if I'm going to be a firefighter,” said VanPagee, as he went on to describe how he has only 90 seconds to get his firefighter gear on when he arrives at the station to respond to an emergency call.

The gear is made of special material that keeps firefighters safe from the heat while they fight a fire. Though the air tanks they carry on their backs are heavy, the air inside them allows a firefighter to breath while working in a smoke-filled environment. A special monitor attached to the firefighters' coats is sensitive to the firefighters' movement, and if they stay still for a short amount of time, an alarm on the monitor sounds to notify others that a firefighter may be in trouble.

Firefighters also carry an assortment of special tools on board their trucks. On display were an axe and a halligan tool, which is allows firefighters to force their way into a structure. VanPagee also brought the thermal imaging camera from the station to demonstration how it allows firefighters to see through smoke in order to see where there is heat in a structure, including behind walls.

Despite all that the firefighters have available to do their jobs, the priority is to make sure people are fire safe.

“Ultimately, I don’t want to come to your house,” VanPagee told the group. “I want you to be safe.”

He and Pollock talked about the importance of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers and having a home fire escape plan.

There was also education about the causes of fire, such as lighters and matches, and VanPagee urged the children not to play with anything that might cause a fire, including the kitchen stove.

“It takes two seconds and your entire house can burn down,” he said.

If fire breaks out, the children were told to get out of the house, stay out, and call 9-1-1.