As part of the annual Florida City Government Week, 21 elementary school students recently toured the city’s fire station, getting a first-hand look at how firefighters and paramedics save lives.
“It’s so cool,” gushed 7-year-old Gabby Santos after struggling to spray water from a 50-foot fire hose. “Firemen get to ride in firetrucks and wear coats and boots.”
Government Week, sponsored by the Florida League of Cities, is a program designed to help educate the public on the services city government provides. Cities are encouraged to involve schools, businesses and civic clubs in planning the week’s events. This year’s statewide activities are scheduled for the week of Oct. 20.
During the 45-minute tour of Fire Station No. 94 on South Jog Road, the kids, all from the city’s Youth Program after-school care, were shown all the equipment firefighters wear (the air tank alone weighs 35 pounds), how the hydraulic rescue tool can free people from wrecked cars and how firefighters use an infrared thermal imager to see in the dark.
“Just like your parents go to an office to work, this is our office and this is our stuff,” Josh Lower, a firefighter/paramedic, said.
When Lower put on his gear and mask, Brooke Stephens, a 10-year-old fourth-grader at Greenacres Elementary, cracked that he sounded like the villainous Darth Vader from the “Star Wars” movies, making the other students giggle.
But Lt. Chris Harris told the kids Lower is no bad guy.
“I know he looks scary,” Harris said, “but when there’s a fire, you should run to him.”
The kids wondered whether Lower was hot inside his suit.
“Yes, but it’s part of the job,” he said in a sweat-drenched shirt.
Lower asked which student wanted to hop inside the fire-rescue truck — on a stretcher. All hands excitedly shot up. Lower chose Yadira Caceres, a 9-year-old second-grader at Diamond View Elementary. She looked a little nervous, however, as she was wheeled in and the other students waved goodbye.
“It felt weird,” Yadira said later. “When I got inside, I was a little scared.”
Most of the kids said the best part of the tour was spraying the fire hose, even though practically all of them had a hard time holding it because of the strong water pressure.
“It’s not your typical garden hose,” Lower said.
But Cristian Silva, an 8-year-old second-grader at Greenacres Elementary didn’t mind, despite holding his left arm after the exercise.
“It was heavy,” he said, “but it was fun.”