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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

Innoko: Providing a Head Start on Fire Safety

Region 0, February 7, 2014
Fire Management Officer Kristi Bulock providing fire safety information to students.
Fire Management Officer Kristi Bulock providing fire safety information to students. - Photo Credit: n/a
Fire Chief Strick giving out Junior Firefighter stickers.
Fire Chief Strick giving out Junior Firefighter stickers. - Photo Credit: n/a
Assistant Fire Chief Magnuson demonstrating protective gear to the Headstart students.
Assistant Fire Chief Magnuson demonstrating protective gear to the Headstart students. - Photo Credit: n/a

By Kristi Bulock
The town of McGrath is located in Alaska’s interior where, during summer months, wildfire is often part of the landscape. When it is not wildfire season, woodstoves and campfires remain a part of everyday life. No matter what time of year it is, it is always a good idea to share lessons with young children concerning fire safety.
As part of fire safety week, the Headstart program with the Iditarod Area School District introduced pre-schoolers to fire safety in the home. In the classroom they learned the importance of smoke detectors, staying low and exiting the building, and practiced fire drills. They also learned how to stop, drop, and roll if their clothing catches on fire.
From school, they headed to the McGrath City Building where the volunteer fire department equipment is housed. The fire chief and assistant discussed home fire safety, then demonstrated the protective clothing and equipment that firefighters use. Kristi Bulock, Fire Management Officer (FMO) at the Innoko National Wildlife Refuge, partnered with the McGrath Volunteer Fire Department and provided tours of the equipment as well as discussions about campfire safety. In addition to her duties as the Alaska SW Area Refuges FMO, Kristi is also a member of the volunteer fire department.
McGrath, with a population of about 325, is where the Innoko Refuge is currently headquartered. This community is surrounded by the boreal forest where volatile black spruce trees and deep duff layers support the occurrence of large wildfires. “It is never too early to educate children on the importance of completely extinguishing a campfire and to notify an adult if they see an unattended fire” Bulock said.
When all the lessons were done, each Headstart student received Junior Firefighters stickers which they wore proudly. For their “homework” the children were instructed to talk with their parents about what they learned.
Before they left, the students teamed up to sing a song to the fire department members as a way to say thank you. “They also learned that fighting fire is about teamwork”, Bulock said, “Practicing fire safety in the home and forest is a great way to do their part for the McGrath community firefighting team.”

Contact Info: Maureen Clark, (907) 786-3469, Maureen_Clark@fws.gov