It's not often one sees Central Emergency Services Fire Marshal Gary Hale in full make-up. But Friday was an exception, and not just because it was Halloween.
Hale and his wife, Sharon, donned full clown make-up and costumes, taking on the personae of Burn-ee and EDITH whose name is an acronym for Exit Drills in the Home to bring the CES Fire Busters puppet show to students at Kenaitze Cuya Qyut'anen Head Start in Kenai.
Joined by two firefighters from the Kenai Fire Department and a host of puppets (and their behind-the-scenes volunteer puppeteers), the clowns taught about 50 preschoolers the basics of fire safety.
"We're fire clowns, and we're going to talk about something that could save your life someday," Burn-ee told the youngsters.
The clown and puppet show is an educational outreach program that CES has been doing for several years, Hale explained after the show. Though it fell by the wayside for a while, CES personnel have been picking it up for the past couple years, expanding their puppet and song repertoire and taking the show to children around the peninsula and as far off as Anchorage.
This October, for Fire Prevention Month, the show visited more than a dozen schools, culminating with the Head Start on Friday. It still is available for invitations to other community groups and schools, as well.
All eyes are glued on CES puppets and clowns.
Photo by Phil Hermanek
Throughout the 45-minute show, the clowns talk to children about the fundamentals of fire safety. Between each short lesson, the puppet chorus backs up the exercise with recorded songs and dances.
The clowns and puppets talked to children about not touching matches or lighters, even if they find the items on the ground, having an escape plan at school and home and keeping fresh batteries in smoke detectors. They also taught students the proper procedures for crawling low under smoke (move slowly on hands and knees, keeping the head down) and for responding if clothes catch fire (stop, drop to the ground and lay straight, cover the face with hands and roll rapidly to beat out the flames).
Finally, Burn-ee and EDITH invited Kenai firefighter Tom Carver out to demonstrate the transition from recognizable man to firefighter in full gear. Carver slowly donned each piece of equipment as Gary Hale explained the function of the gear.
Then, Hale invited the students to touch the fully-geared firefighter.
"It almost doesn't look like him anymore," Hale said. "But remember, the firefighter is your friend. There's no reason to be scared."
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