Gretna, FL - The citizens of Gretna should feel a little safer now as Chief Brian Bess, of the Gretna Public Safety Department, swore in approximately 350 new junior Fire Safety and Prevention Inspectors with Sparky the Fire Dog and Smokey the Bear on Wednesday afternoon at Gretna Elementary School. Following a fun filled program to teach the new “inspectors” about 911 use, fire safety and fire prevention, the children from Pre-K through 5th grade raised their right hand and took the “official” junior inspectors oath. Shortly after the swearing in, Chief Bess gave the first official assignment to the new junior inspectors – performing a fire safety check in their homes and developing a family escape plan. “Having a family escape plan is of vital importance if a disaster strike,” Chief Bess said, “the family plan these junior inspectors put together with their family will include a rallying point for their family to gather and make sure everyone is there. They will be able to use these plans for a hurricane, tornado, any disaster not just a fire.”
As the members of the Gretna Fire Department, a part of the Public Safety Department sang and danced, it was difficult to tell who had more fun, the students or the firefighters. ”It’s important to get our children involved with safety and prevention at an early age. Teaching them how and when to call 911 and what they can do in case of an emergency and then encouraging our children to practice what they have learned may someday save someone’s life.” City Manager Antonio Jefferson added, “We are so proud of our school children today, they really grasped the message and I think they will do a great job helping to protect their families.”
The Gretna firefighters helped teach the group, through song and dance, such important lessons such as Stop, Drop and Roll if clothing ever catches on fire. Sparky the Dog reminded everyone to stay low and crawl to the door if there is a smoke alarm going off in the house of if anyone smells smoke in the house. Sparky brought along his friend who was visiting from New Mexico, Smokey the Bear. Smokey reminded everyone to be careful when playing or camping in the woods.
When asked what they thought of the program, the Gretna firefighter expressed overwhelming excitement and gratitude that Principal Jackson invited them. “Its programs like these, where we get a chance to interact with the public in such a positive way that makes me glad I became a firefighter” stated Dontarrious Holland. And for the children, well the smiles on their faces and their willingness to help their community says it all. “Looks like we may have some new volunteer firefighters in the making!” Bess stated, “the eagerness and warmth shown to us by these kids is makes being the Chief of the Public Safety Department here in Gretna well worth it.”
Sparky the Fire Dog brought his friend Smokey the Bear who was visiting with his friend Ricky Redding of the Florida Forestry Department. “Joining in with Gretna Fire Department to help teach fire safety and prevention to such a fun group makes my job a real pleasure. Redding stated. The camaraderie the Gretna firefighters have with each other and their community certainly set an example for all fire departments to emulate. Anything I can do, as a member of The Florida Department of Forestry to assist the Department is an honor.”