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Local firefighter’s focus on safety garners award

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“Learning Not to Burn” is an fire safety and prevention message local volunteer firefighter Tyler Moffitt has talked a lot about with area school children over the past few years—and one he’s not about to quit delivering.

And this dedication to fire prevention and public education also acted in his favour when he was chosen last week as one of nine people to receive a fire safety award from the Fire Marshal’s Public Fire Safety Council.

He was nominated for the award by Fire Chief Ralph Fulford, who said his decision to forward Moffitt’s name was based pure and simply on a long-lasting commitment to help save lives.

“I nominated him because of the time, effort and dedication he has shown," said Chief Fulford. "It was based on effort.”

Moffitt is the first volunteer firefighter in the district to win such an award, which Chief Fulford said makes for a uplifted atmosphere within the ranks.

“We all take pride in his success. I think it gives us all more incentive,” he noted.

“[Chief Fulford] said ‘I nominated you for an award’ and I thought he meant Citizen of the Year or something,” said a surprised Moffitt, who will receive the award Nov. 14 in Toronto.

Moffitt has been a volunteer firefighter for the past 11 years, and is currently chairman of the district fire safety committee.

And while he was quite modest about his upcoming award presentation, he was not without words on the “Learn Not To Burn” program he knows so much about.

The program provides life-saving skills to children from kindergarten to grade eight—an age group Moffitt believes is the key to a fire-free future.

“The big one is the kids. If you teach them young about fire safety and prevention, they will take that with them,” he reasoned.

“They may not use it until they’re older but they do remember,” he added.

Moffitt also said the messages brought into the classroom by firefighters help teach adults about prevention habits, too.

Surprisingly, prevention and safety where fires are concerned are often neglected in the communication channels of family life, Moffitt warned.

Teaching children about the importance of smoke detectors, crawling low, escape routes, and “stop, drop and roll” techniques are messages which sometimes don’t get talked about around the table until a child has learned about it in the classroom.

“Often it is the kids who teach the parents about safety, that’s why it’s important to keep it in the schools,” Moffitt stressed.

“It’s important, though, to change people’s attitudes towards [safety and prevention]. It should be an ongoing education,” he stressed, noting many adults still believe simple smoke detectors are unnecessary.

“Everyone thinks they will smell smoke [at night] and wake up," he said. ”When you’re asleep, your nose is asleep. Most people die of smoke inhalation.

“People don’t believe a fire can happen to them.”

Another important point Moffitt stressed was for parents to educate babysitters about their household fire safety plan, and to make sure the caregiver knows where to find flashlights in case of a power outage.

Moffitt said he continues to urge district fire departments to arrange regular visits to the schools in their communities. In addition to volunteering his own time in the classroom, Moffitt also educates other firefighters on program training.

He also has developed and implemented a school fire safety essay/poster contest.

Meanwhile, with Halloween fast approaching, Moffitt encouraged parents to keep children safe with flame-retardant costumes—and urged the use flashlights in jack-o-lanterns instead of candles.

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