CASSADAGA - Firefighters from five different fire companies converged upon the two elementary schools in the Cassadaga Valley Central School District.
Fortunately, personnel and equipment from Lily Dale, Stockton, Cassadaga, Gerry and Sinclairville weren't there because of a fire. Instead, the firefighters arrived to share information with students about fire prevention. October is Fire Prevention Month.
Firefighters in gear visited each classroom. In Melissa Kelly's kindergarten at Cassadaga Elementary School, the children were surprised to see firefighters who came into the classroom in full gear. Kelly was wearing a shirt that said 'Get out and stay out' one of the lessons the firefighters wanted to stress with the children.
OBSERVER Photos by Diane R. Chodan
Top: Melissa Kelly’s kindergarten students put their hands over their ears as Cassadaga firefighter Chris Wichlacz demonstrates how loud a personal alarm is. The alarm is used if a firefighter gets in trouble. In back of Wichlacz is his wife TammieAnn, also a firefighter and PTO president.
Above: Stockton firefighter Mike Myers visits his children Hailey and Gabriel at Cassadaga Elementary School. In an attempt to make firefighters less scary, children were told that some firefighters are mommies and daddies.
Firefighters explained they are there to help them in the event of an emergency.
She told the children, "The firefighters do look a little scary, but they will be there to help you."
Cassadaga fireman Chris Wichlacz had his breathing apparatus in place. His son Bradley is a student in this class.
"Do you know who I am?" Chris asked his son, sounding like Darth Vader from Star Wars. Eventually Chris took off the device as well as his helmet, so his son could recognize him.
Mike Lehnen, another firefighter from Cassadaga, commented with a laugh. "That's the only time I saw Bradley when he wasn't talking."
Chris let the children try on his helmet and the breathing apparatus. He also demonstrated how his personal alarm worked. The alarm can increase in volume, so Chris advised the children to cover their ears.
Mike Myers, a firefighter from Stockton, talked to the children, including his son Gabriel and daughter Hailey who are also kindergartners. Many of the children came up to hug him.
TammieAnn Wichlacz, president of the elementary P.T.O. and also a firefighter, was not dressed in gear but stooped down to talk to one nervous pupil. She said she was a firefighter too and she would never, ever hurt a child. Her calm voice seemed to reassure the little girl.
Classes went outdoors to look at the equipment parked in a long line at the front of the school. Firefighters patiently answered questions, showing where the hoses are kept as well as where the firemen sit. Children could look inside the ambulance. Each group was instructed that in case of a fire in a building to "get out and stay out." In the case of personal clothes catching fire the advise was to "stop, drop, and roll."
TammieAnn said the P.T.O. organized this day for both schools. "This is the first time that all five fire departments did this together. When asked they all said 'sure,'" she said.
She laughed as she described how the group left Sinclairville Elementary school. "They went around the circle twice with the whistles and sirens blaring."
Sinclairville principal John Kwietniewski said, "It was good that the students could see the people from their neighborhoods in a different light and interact with them."
Principal of Cassadaga Elementary Josh Gilevski said, "I think this is a great show of community support for our schools when we have all five fire departments here. They all have have an interest in children and educating them during fire prevention month which is of paramount importance."
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