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Town of Batavia Fire Department

State law opens door for Batavia Town Board to offer stipend for volunteer firefighter training

By Mike Pettinella

The Batavia Town Board on Wednesday night signed on to a recently launched New York State training stipend program for volunteer firefighters.

In a unanimous vote, the board passed a resolution that calls for payment of up to $500 in local training stipends for certain firefighter training for Town of Batavia firefighters.

“It’s long overdue and we’re very supportive of volunteer fire service,” Batavia Town Supervisor Greg Post said. “We’re pleased to pass this resolution as quickly as we were able to.”

In March, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the start of the statewide program, stating that the goal is to strengthen and stabilize New York’s volunteer fire service. She said that $10 million has been allocated to help offset costs of required fire training courses.

Genesee County officials have been sounding the alarm over the past several years about the declining number of volunteer firefighters, calling for corrective measures that include compensation.

Tim Yaeger, county Emergency Management Services coordinator, acknowledged that Hochul is responding to “conversations with fire associations, coordinators, fire districts and the New York State Fire Chiefs over the diminishing number of volunteers in the state.”

“Those conversations led to this law going into effect last August 31st, where different amounts (of compensation) will be paid (depending on the specific courses taken),” he said. 

Per the law, the state’s Division’s Office of Fire Prevention and Control will administer the stipend to volunteer firefighters for completion of the following training courses completed on or after August 31, 2023.

The state’s program allots $750 for basic exterior firefighting operations course, $1,250 for self-contained breathing apparatus/interior firefighting operations course and $1,000 for fire officer I course.

Locally, the state’s General Municipal Law 200-aa authorizes fire companies to administer a local fire training stipend program of up to $500, subject to authorization by the governing board of city, town, village, or fire district (Authority Having Jurisdiction).

Yaeger said local governing authorities have the option – nothing is mandated – to give stipends to their volunteer firefighters.

“Some may not participate because of budgetary concerns or maybe they don’t have the money in their current budget and may have to wait until next year,” he noted.

He said local action is “basically kind of a thank you.”

“It’s a nice gesture to compensate those volunteers for their time away from their family – away from their obligations – for taking further training courses on behalf of their communities.”

Post said that although the Town Board’s action applies only to its fire department members in good standing, he said that “other municipalities will also have the means and authority to pass similar resolutions.”

“Volunteer fire associations have been pushing for this for a long, long time. They have been lobbying for some time of compensation for a while,” he said. “They spend more time training than they do responding. And it’s not a lot of money. It’s around $8 or $9 per hour when you work it out.”

A representative of the Town of Batavia Fire Department said fire officials "are going through the process" and would be able to provide specifics in the coming weeks.

Town Board sets fire protection public hearing for Nov. 17, contracts with Alabama for STAMP code enforcement

By Mike Pettinella

A public hearing on the Town of Batavia’s 2022 contract with the Town of Batavia Fire Department is scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 17 at the Town Hall, 3833 West Main St. Rd.

The proposed contract, which would take effect on Jan. 1, calls for the town to pay the fire department $1,185,265 for fire protection for all of next year.

Town residents fund the fire department through a separate special district tax, which is expected to remain at $2.34 per thousand of assessed valuation – the same as 2021.

The town board announced the public hearing date at its meeting on Wednesday night.

In other action, the town board:

  • Approved an agreement in which the town will provide code enforcement services to the Town of Alabama, specifically for development at the WNY Science & Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park.

According to the resolution, the Town of Alabama shall pay the Town of Batavia $55.44 per hour during normal business hours Monday through Friday. The charge for field inspections outside of that timeframe will be $83.16 per hour. Mileage incurred by enforcement officers also will be reimbursed.

  • Completed the preliminary 2022 budget process, setting the property tax rate at $2.51 per thousand of assessed valuation. The rate is a 12 percent decrease from 2021, and will generate $1,236,000 in property taxes – the same amount as last year.

The sewer rate remains the same as 2021 -- at $7.09 per 1,000 gallons used -- while the water rate for both residential and agricultural consumers is going up by 2 percent – to $6.32 and $5.12 per 1,000 gallons, respectively.

Salaries for elected officials are as follows:

  • Supervisor Gregory Post, $40,000.
  • Deputy Supervisor Dan Underhill, $18,000.
  • Council members Patti Michalak, Chad Zambito and Sharon White, $12,000.
  • Town Clerk/Tax Collector Teressa Morasco, $74,541.
  • Highway Superintendent Tom Lichtenthal, $20,101.
  • Town Justices Lisa Funke and Andrew Young, $28,840.

No one from the public spoke at public hearings on the budget, sewer and water rates on Wednesday.

Town of Batavia Fire Department holds recruitment drive April 24-30

By Press Release

Submitted photos and press release:

The Town of Batavia Fire Department Inc. is proud to announce our 2021 recruitment drive starting on April 24th through April 30th.

Due to COVID-19 there will not be an open house but instead you can call (585) 344-3284 and set a date and time between the 24th and 30th from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. to have a tour of our station, speak with a line officer and receive an application packet. Each time slot will be for one 1 hour or less.

If you go to voicemail just leave your information and we will get back to you!

We do accept members that are 16 to 17 years old, but you must have a parent or guardian accompany you so we can answer their questions as well.

If you want to have a career as a first responder or just want to help your community volunteering with your local fire department is a great way to start!

The Town of Batavia Fire Department headquarters is at 8382 Lewiston Road, in Batavia. Mailing address is P.O. Box 417, Batavia NY 14021-0417.

With desirable financing in place, construction of Batavia Town FD substation progresses

By Mike Pettinella


Despite the uncertainty created by the COVID-19 Pandemic, real progress is being made on the construction of a new $3.2 million, 10,000-square-foot Town of Batavia Fire Department substation on Stringham Drive.

Building Committee Chair Gary Diegelman said the project is “50 percent done” and, if all goes well, should be completed by the end of the summer or early fall.

Diegelman provided an update this morning on the heels of the Batavia Town Board’s approval of a modification to the department’s borrowing plan at last night’s videoconference board meeting.

The Town Board authorized a change in wording to reflect that the fire department will be looking to borrow up to a maximum principal amount of $2 million, rescinding a previous resolution that fixed the amount at $2 million.

“We requested a change after looking at our finances and deciding we didn’t need that much,” said Diegelman, advising that the department has secured a $1.6 million, eight-year mortgage from M&T Bank. “And with our tax-exempt status, we were able to get a lower interest rate.”

Diegelman said that the main structure is done and the pouring of concrete is scheduled for next week.

“They’re mostly working on interior stuff now,” he said.

Thompson Builds of Churchville is the general contractor.

It has been two years since Diegelman presided over an open house at the Batavia Town Hall. The new substation, which replaces the current Station 2 located on the north side of Clinton Street Road at the corner of Stringham Drive, will feature two drive-thru bays and entrances from both roads.

The project also includes four dormitory rooms, a 25-car parking lot in the back and a five-car lot in front, a main entrance electronic message sign and a decontamination room to keep firefighters’ gear separate from the rest of the building.

Diegelman said the coronavirus situation hasn’t hampered construction that much and was quick to add that work continues due to the fact that the emergency services project has been deemed "essential.”

In another development, Batavia Town Supervisor Greg Post said the Town is “running at 95-percent efficiency, even with everybody working at home and remotely.”

Post said four public work ventures are ongoing – water main projects and a couple of sanitary sewer upgrades, both at the Ag Park and King’s Plaza -- and he expects that number to increase to seven or eight in another month or so.

“The highway department is working on touching up the last parts of Ellicott Trail as well as maintaining roadside culvert pipes and doing all the prep work necessary prior to full summer paving operations,” he said, adding that employees continue to maintain separation and keeping safe distances from one another per New York State coronavirus mandates.

Building Inspector Daniel Lang reported that his department is fielding “quite a few” building permit requests, conducting solar farm plan reviews and assisting the town assessor with “end of the year” items.

Photo of Town of Batavia Fire Department substation on Stringham Drive taken this morning by Mike Pettinella.

County planners OK Town of Batavia fire substation, Village of Corfu apartment plans with stipulations

By Mike Pettinella

Two nights after unveiling its plan to the public to construct a $3.2 million station on Stringham Drive to replace Station 2 on Clinton Street Road, the Town of Batavia Fire Department presented the proposal to the Genesee County Planning Board.

Planners, on Thursday, recommended approval of the site plan as long as department officials obtain a state Department of Transportation permit pertaining to an entrance to the 10,000-square-foot substation from Clinton Street Road.

“It’s already (the application for the DOT permit) in the process; it’s already been filed,” Gary Diegelman, department building committee chairperson, said this morning.

Diegelman said he anticipated no problems getting DOT approval.

“The traffic study was done. There shouldn’t be any problem with it,” he said.

The new building will feature two drive-thru bays and entrances from both Stringham Drive and Clinton Street Road. With the drive-thru bays, the trucks will not have to back up to enter and exit the station

It also will have four dormitory-style rooms for firefighters wishing to stay there, a bunk-in program that has been gaining traction around the state.

The fire department’s site plan will be considered by the Batavia Town Planning Board for final approval on Feb. 20.

In other developments, the planning board:

-- Gave its go-ahead, with some modifications, to a proposal by Ronald Long of Springville to construct a 42-unit apartment complex to be marketed to seniors on West Main Street (Route 33) in the Village of Corfu.

Long appeared before the group for the second time in five months, this time presenting the entire plan after addressing a wetlands situation and getting clearance from the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Stipulations of the board’s positive recommendation include creating a buffer between neighboring properties, installing lighting and landscaping per Village of Corfu guidelines, putting in a sidewalk from the street to the complex, and obtaining state Department of Transportation approval for the driveway.

“There was talk about a possible buffer,” Long said this morning. “I told them I would do whatever the neighbors wanted me to do.”

Long said his plan calls for the construction of seven buildings, each with six 1,155-square-foot apartments.

“It’s a cookie-cutter (design),” he said. “The biggest thing is that all are ranch style, with closed attached garages that enable the residents to get out of their cars and go right into their homes. They have private entrances and two bedrooms.”

Long, who has built large-scale apartment complexes in Clarence Center and Orchard Park, among others, said he picked up the engineer’s site drawings on Thursday and is prepared to go before the Village of Corfu Planning Board in the near future.

“The village has already given its strong endorsement,” he said, adding that he hopes to break ground this spring.

He said he already has enough (tenant) names to fill the first two buildings.

Currently, the site is being called Corfu Senior Apartments, but Long said that a permanent name has yet to be determined.

-- Recommended approval of an area variance requested by Zaremba Group Inc., to have 30 parking spaces (instead of the required 46) at a proposed Dollar General store in East Pembroke.

Town of Batavia FD plans $3.2 million substation on Stringham Drive; residents concerned about water runoff

By Mike Pettinella



Town of Batavia Fire Department officials tonight outlined their plan to build a new $3.2 million, 10,000-square-foot substation – complete with a dormitory wing for “resident” firefighters -- on Stringham Drive.

“We want to be good neighbors, and give a heads-up to what we’re doing out there,” said Gary Diegelman, chair of the department’s building committee and member of its board of directors, during a public informational meeting attended by about 30 people at the Batavia Town Hall on West Main Street Road.

Many of those at the meeting were residents of the area on Stringham Drive near the proposed location of the new fire hall.

Diegelman said the new building will feature two drive-thru bays and entrances from both Stringham Drive and Clinton Street Road. With the drive-thru bays, the trucks will not have to back up to enter and exit the station.

It will replace the current Station 2 which is located on the north side of Clinton at the corner of Stringham. The department’s headquarters will continue to be Station 1 on Lewiston Road, across from Kmart.

While no one objected to fire department’s proposal – “I’ve got a fire department in my backyard, and I have no problem with that,” said Wayne Benz, owner of a four-family home next door – several homeowners said they were concerned about a retention pond on the property for water runoff and the fire hall’s proximity to their houses.

“People are afraid there will be standing water and whether it will be an eyesore or a mosquito breeding ground,” said Brian Odachowski, who purchased Dana Stringham’s home at 5017 Clinton Street Road last year. “There’s already a drainage problem for people on the lower end.”

Odachowski, who said the fire hall will be in his backyard, said his main concern is “how much of the greenspace (buffer between his property and the fire hall) will be taken away.”

He said he was hopeful that the retention pond will be “done in the right way … to stop the massive runoff that would sweep into the backyards of people living there.”

Diegelman said the fire department contracted with architect Mitchell Associates Architects of Voorheesville and with the Western New York engineering firm Clark Patterson Lee.

“All he (Robert Mitchell) does is fire departments,” Diegelman said.

He said the department purchased the property about three years ago and “got the bumps out of the road.” With that, it is ready to present its proposal to the Genesee County Planning Board (this Thursday night) and then to the Town Planning Board (on Feb. 20).

Other details of the plan include a 25-car parking lot in the back and a five-car lot in front, an electronic message sign at the main entrance off Clinton Street Road, and a decontamination room to keep firefighters’ gear separate from the rest of the building.

Diegelman called the addition of four dorm rooms a “bunk-in program,” noting that other departments in New York State are doing this.

“It’s a space for four members to live there, sort of like a college dorm,” he said. “It could be for younger guys, and there will be set rules for them, and tasks for them to earn their keep.”

He said the benefit of such an arrangement would be that the bunk-ins would be there to “respond to calls – they’ll be the first out to get on the truck and go – but obviously we’re going to take into consideration that they have jobs, too.”

Diegelman, who was joined by Fire Chief Dan Coffey and other firefighters at the meeting, said the department’s fiscal responsibility has enabled it to proceed with the venture.

“We have money in the coffers (because) we’ve been putting money into the building fund account,” he said. “We will put down a substantial amount on the building (he later indicated the down payment will be around $1 million), and we will hold some back for furnishings (including TV screens and computers for the radio room).”

He said they will borrow the rest, and that he was confident the entire project could be paid off in 10 years. He said the existing substation will not be sold or torn down “until we decide what to do -- not in the near future.”

When asked if maybe the department’s budget was too cash heavy, he quickly responded, “Not at all.”

“The Town knows very well what our budgets are,” he said. “We present our budget to the Town Board every year, so they’re very aware of what’s in our coffers. They’re very aware of the projects that we have.

“We just purchased a brand new aerial truck. We determined a long time ago that any equipment purchases – trucks, etc. – would be paid by cash. So we pay for all of our apparatus with cash, and then the buildings get financed.”

He said the original plan was to construct a 16,000-square-foot, three-bay station, but the decision was made to go smaller – “partially due to cost, partially due to necessity.”

Diegelman noted that the new substation is needed due to expansion in that area of Batavia.

“We know that that end of town is building up a lot. They just put the big fieldhouse out at the college, and Oakwood Estates out there on East Main, Mueller’s building another big warehouse there, or it’s Hood now … so we got to know that it’s building up on that end of town. So we need to be progressive enough to be up with the times.”

He said that after obtaining planning board approvals, he anticipated that construction bids for the project would go out in the spring, and groundbreaking would take place sometime this summer.


Photos at top -- Gary Diegelman, left, addresses concerns of Brian and Julie Odachowski as other Stringham Drive-area residents look on; overhead look at the location of the new Town of Batavia Fire Department substation (outlined in black). The existing substation is across Stringham Drive, facing Clinton Street Road. At bottom, architect's rendering of the building (dark shading), which has two stories on one side and is designed to last 75 to 100 years. Clinton Street Road is at the bottom of picture. Photos by Mike Pettinella.

Town of Batavia Fire Department suspends this year's Harley raffle, aim is to ensure all fundraising is 'fully compliant'

By Billie Owens

Press release:

As a public safety, not for profit agency, the membership and Board of Directors of the Town of Batavia Fire Department, Inc., strive to conduct all of our activities above board and fully compliant with all Federal, State and local laws. 

With recent events, we have decided that it would be prudent to fully examine our fundraising activities to make sure that they are compliant with all applicable rules, regulations and laws.

A thorough examination will take time to complete. With our largest fundraiser scheduled for just a few months down the road, we have decided it would be best to suspend our very popular Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Raffle, until we are completely satisfied that we are in full compliance.

We would like to thank all our past supporters including our sponsors, our vendors, and the volunteer members and significant others who sell tickets and work the event.

Most importantly, we would like to thank those who have supported us financially by purchasing tickets and attending our raffles. You have made this event successful every year.

We will not be commenting further until the examination is completed and a decision has been made on future fundraising efforts. 

Possible barn fire reported on Alexander Road, Alexander

By Billie Owens

A possible barn fire is reported at 9313 Alexander Road, Alexander. The location is between Pike and Dodgeson roads. A passerby reported seeing smoke coming from the roof. Town of Batavia Fire Department is responding.

UPDATE 3:49 p.m.: It's just steam from processing maple sap into maple syrup. No fire. Responders are back in service.

Sponsored Post: The Town of Batavia Annual Harley Raffle is this Saturday at 6pm!

By Lisa Ace

The Town of Batavia Harley Raffle will be held this Saturday, July 26th. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Audibull will be this year's entertainment.

We will also have a beer tent, T-shirts, pull tabs, and a 50/50 raffle. Winner need not be present to win. We invite everyone to attend. There is no charge for admission and you do not need a ticket to get in.

Come on down and check out all the motorcycles. We will be having a best motorcycle contest. Winners of each class will win a free T-shirt.

Thank you for another sold-out year and your overwhelming support for our department and the Town of Batavia.

Pictured from left, John Mullen, Mike Jones, Ben Fisher, Tim McJury and Stephen Kowalcyk.

Photo: Educating children about preventing fire

By Howard B. Owens

It's Fire Prevention Week, and as it does annually, the Town of Batavia Fire Department, is visiting local pre-schools and schools to educate children about who firefighters are, what they do, and the role children can play in helping to prevent fires. Above, Nate Fix and Russel Borden with a child from Genesee Community College's daycare center.

Photos: Town of Batavia Fire's annual Harley Raffle and Wingding

By Howard B. Owens

The annual Harley Raffle and Wingding at the Town of Batavia Fire Hall on Lewiston Road once again was a big hit with area residents. Hundreds of people packed the lot and enjoyed the party, which featured music by 7th Heaven. Alex's provided ribs and pulled pork, and of course, there was a beer tent.

We're awaiting notification of who won the drawings.

UPDATE: The winner of the Harley Fatboy is Dewey Towner, Batavia. The $500 winners are Gerald Wolcott, Batavia, Wayne Cross, Versailles, Dan Hale, Batavia, and Michael Leone, Waterport.

If you're unable to view the slide show below, click here.

To purchase prints, click here.

Photo: Clock ticking down to Town of Batavia's big Harley raffle

By Howard B. Owens

The Town of Batavia Fire Department's annual Harley Raffle is Saturday and there are fewer than 120 tickets left.

Volunteers will be at the fire hall every evening between now and Saturday and if you haven't purchased your tickets yet -- or want to purchase more -- the members invite you to stop by and make a purchase.

Tickets are $20 each and enter you into a drawing for the Harley or $10,000 cash.

The big party begins at 8 p.m. and will feature music by 7th Heavan and food from Alex's Place along with a beer tent. If there are any raffle tickets still available Saturday night they can be purchased at the event prior to the drawing.

In the picture from left, Paul Dibble, Dan Koziol, Adam Mullen and Russ Borden.

Photos: Town of Batavia Fire Department awards and installation dinner

By Howard B. Owens

Paul Dibble, above, with Chief Randy McIntire, was named Firefighter of the Year for the Town of Batavia at the department's annual awards and installation dinner tonight.

Robert Mullen, top picture below, was honored for 233 calls in 2011, the most of any member of the department.

In all, the department responded to 294 calls (98 were false alarms).

Department members completed 2,738 training hours, and in all members gave the department 5,419 hours for calls and training. At the average $50 an hour of a paid personnel department, the town saved $270,000 over what it might have spent, McIntire said.

Line officers for 2012 are Chief McIntire, Deputy Chief Paul Barrett, First Assistant Chief Daniel Coffey, Second Assistant Chief Nathan Fix, Captain Christopher Long, Lieutenant Robert Tripp, Safety Officer Robert Hunt.

Corporate officers: President John Fitzsimmons, VP Dustin Holman, Secretary Ryan Palmer, Treasurer Donald Koziol, and directors are Robert Mullen, Daniel Jacques, Jeremy Hunt, Tim Yaeger and Steve Coburn.

Assemblyman Steve Hawley served as master of ceremonies.

Justice Mike Cleveland conducted the installation of officers.

Highway Superintendent Tom Lichtenthal spoke briefly about the department's master plan.

McIntire with the plaque that displays the names of department members with the most training hours and calls.

Photos: Harley raffle at the Town of Batavia Fire Hall

By Howard B. Owens

It was a party all night long at the Town of Batavia Fire Hall on Lewiston Road on Saturday.

The annual shindig is held to announce the winner of the fire department's Harley raffle.

This year's winner was Eric Anderson from Bronxville.

Entertainment was provided by 7th Heaven, and Alex's Place was the caterer.  

It was the first time in a couple of years there was no rain during the event and everybody seemed to be having a good time.

To purchase photographic prints from this event, click here.

Photo: Town of Batavia Fire Department set to pick winner in 2011 Harley raffle

By Howard B. Owens

The Town of Batavia Fire Department is gearing up for its 12th Annual Harley-Davidson Raffle.

The raffle drawing is July 30 at the fire hall on Lewiston Road. Once again, there will be great food (from Alex's Place this year), live music, a beer tent and, of course, the raffle.

The Harley this year is a 2011 Fat Boy Low. Tickets, if you can still get them, are $20 each. For information on availability, write to or call 344-3284, ext. 12.

Besides the Harley, four tickets will be drawn for cash prizes of $500 each.

Pictured are 2nd Assistant Chief Nate Fix, front left, firefighter Josh Finn, firefighter Ben Fisher, back left, firefighter Scott Washburn and Chief Randy McIntier.

Photos: Batavia Motel becomes training ground for volunteer firefighters

By Howard B. Owens

Today, the former Batavia Motel on West Main Street became a training structure for volunteer firefighters as the Town of Batavia Fire Department began a bit of the dismantling process.

The hotel, acquired by the town a couple of months ago, is to be torn down (or burned down) to make way for an expansion of Lion Park.

The town condemned the property at  3768 W. Main Street Road in December, sending about seven residents looking for new places to live.

A couple of months after condemning the property, the town completed the purchase.

Town of Batavia Fire Chief Randy McIntire said the department isn't sure how much training it will be able to do on the building. The town may want it down pretty quickly and there might be some complications related to asbestos removal. 

At least for the next few weeks, however, firefighters -- and perhaps local law enforcement -- can use the worn-down structure for training.

Tonight, firefighters worked on venting -- the practice of cutting holes in the roof of a burning structure to allow heat and smoke to escape.

BTW: If this looks like your idea of fun and public service, visit to find out more about volunteering for your local fire department (city residents can volunteer for the Town of Batavia Fire Department).

Photos: Town of Batavia Fire Department's 2011 awards and installation dinner

By Howard B. Owens

David Tran, center, was named Town of Batavia's Firefighter of the Year at the fire department's annual awards and officer installation banquet Saturday night at the fire hall on Lewiston Road.

Left is Robert Hunt, outgoing chief, and right is Randy McIntire, the new chief.

Colleen McIntire received the President's Award.

In 2010, the department responded to 289 alarms. The top five responders were Robert Mullen (208), Nate Fix (195), Dave Tran (191), Joe Avino (176) and Ben Fisher (158).

Published pictures are available for purchase by clicking here.

More pictures after the jump:

Steve Mullen, 20-year member of the department and sergeant in the Genesee County Sheriff's Office, was master of ceremonies.

Assemblyman Steve Hawley swore in the 2011 officers.

Charter Member Earl Dorman was honored for his 63 years of service and support of the department.

Robert Tripp receives a corporate award from VP Steve Coburn.

Photos: Town of Batavia Fire open house

By Howard B. Owens

As part of Emergency Preparedness, the Town of Batavia Volunteer Fire Department held an open house today at its Lewiston Road headquarters. In addition to activities for children, tours of their fire trucks, equipment demonstrations and hot dogs, the volunteers were giving away smoke detectors.

Also, Lt. Nate Fix took me for a ride to the top of the ladder truck.

More pictures after the jump:

Pembroke kids have fun learning about fire safety

By Daniel Crofts

When Mr. Fire comes knockin' at your door, make sure you know what to do!

That's the gist of the message Sgt. Major William Joyce, of the East Pembroke Fire Department, had for Pembroke Primary School students last week.

He and firefighters from various districts came to talk to the kids about the importance of being prepared for fire-related emergencies.

These are some of the trucks that pulled up to the school in the morning, much to the delight of the children:

Part of being prepared for a fire, according to Joyce, is developing an evacuation plan, which has to include a designated spot for the family to meet outside the home.

"And please don't pick your mom or dad's truck," Joyce said. "Mom and dad might have gone to the store or something, which means the truck could be gone."

He recommended picking a neighborhood tree or telephone pole, because "last time I checked, trees and telephone poles don't walk away."

Secondly, Joyce stressed the importance not only of getting out of a burning house, but also of staying out.

"Don't go back in for your dog or your cat or your favorite toy," he said. "You can always buy a new dog, cat or toy at the store, but there's no store I know of where your parents can get another little boy or girl."

Families should practice these and other safety measures through home fire drills, according to Joyce.

"Monday night is the best time for fire drills," he said, "because the firefighters are at the hall and we have all the equipment we need ready."

And in case one of these little ones were to get stuck in the house during a fire, Joyce stressed one very important thing they would need to remember:

"Don't be afraid of the firefighters."

He acknowledged that firefighters can look kind of scary when they come crawling into the house or room in the dark, masked, dressed in heavy gear, and breathing like Darth Vader.

Joyce explained that the masks and suits are to protect the firefighters, and that they crawl in order to avoid the fire, which is going to be "up above."

To help the kids out, the firefighters did a little demonstration in the gymnasium, with the lights off -- the kids were asked to shout out "help," as if they were trapped in a fire and needed rescue:

Some practical tips for fire prevention and safety were included in the presentation as well. Some of these were:

• Remember to empty your wastebaskets

• Keep the doors unblocked

• Change your smoke detector's battery regularly

• Don't try to put out the fire yourself; call the fire department

The assembly was followed by some hands-on activities for the kids, including tours of the buses, a look at firefighters' equipment, and trying on firemen's uniforms. These activities went on for most of the day, with classes taking turns touring the rigs:



On the way back to my car I got a look a the school's playground, which I thought looked pretty cool:

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