A pox on fire
Sparks learn how not to ignite

Glen Korstrom
Northern News Services

INUVIK (Feb 05/99) - Imagine seeing through eyes about 15 centimetres above your living room carpet with the rug's beige nylon fibres appearing more like a flat, dry prairie field fitfully brightened by an electrical storm.

Absurd, maybe, but crawling with your head just off the ground is the best way to make it to safety without gulping down lung-scorching, soot-flavoured smoke if fire should ever strike your home.

"It's far worse than tobacco smoke," says volunteer firefighter Julie Miller, who is starting to teach fire prevention programs to kids.

"There's carbon monoxide and cyanide and other poisonous gases. Some are so light they are right on the ground so it's best to keep your head raised a bit."

For parents, the general fire-safety message is familiar though there are always new specific ideas to keep family and possessions safe.

Recent fires and near-fires stress the need to keep wood stoves clear of flammables, such as clothing or old, yellowing back issues of the xxxDrum.

But on Jan. 30 the phenomena of fire and the seriousness of skin burns proved to ignite excitement among a large group of five and six-year-old girls.

Suitably enough, they were in the Girl Guides-affiliated, Sparks.

And as Miller sat on a blanket holding a smoke detector while explaining its importance, she was bombarded with answers, questions and comments.

"I've got one in my living room," one girl piped up before being drowned out in a chorus of "me too."

In the kitchen, Miller issued a warning about keeping pot lids turned in and for girls to keep clear when a parent rushes to the sink with a pot of spaghetti water to drain.

"All of you should have an escape plan for every floor of your house and really practise it," Miller said before stressing the value of practising the escape with a blindfold on to really get a feel for the route.

Miller covered how to stop, drop and roll if clothing catches fire and how oxygen, flammable material and an ignition source are all that's needed for fire to occur.

"If you're burned, do you laugh and go, 'oh goody?'" Miller asked to a rapt audience.

"No, you cry and go, 'ouch.' Burns can hurt really, really badly and they can also happen quickly."

Miller has recently started her presentations to area kids and alters her advice somewhat depending on the age level. On Feb. 2, she spoke with Grade 5 students at SAM school and she says she hopes to spread a fire safety message through other grades as well.