Middle school posters send message for Fire Prevention Week

“Fire Can’t Wait — Plan Your Escape” was the theme of the 100th annual Fire Prevention Week and Poster Contest hosted this year by the Council Bluffs Fire Department.

The department invited middle school students from Council Bluffs to participate and choose the winners in grades six, seven and eight.

The three winners were: sixth grade, Drake Rees of Wilson Middle School; seventh grade, Lacie Keller, Wilson; and in eighth grade, Kylee Cook of Lewis Central Middle School. Each received a plaque donated by Midwest Trophy & Award and a cash prize of $100.

The students were invited to the main fire station for lunch and an awards ceremony on Friday. They all arrived in style, being driven from their schools to the department’s fire station.

Fire Chief Justin James congratulated the students and told them a bit about the fire department.

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The department has 115 employees, when fully staffed, James said. Crews respond to more than 10,000 emergency calls each year and transport around 6,000 people to a hospital.

“Each year, thousands of lives are lost and billions of dollars in damage are caused by fires,” he said.

The department hopes to prevent loss of life through its public education program, James said.

Working smoke alarms halve the risk of dying in a reported home fire, according to a proclamation by Council Bluffs Mayor Matt Walsh designating October 9-15 as City Fire Prevention Week. Residents of Council Bluffs who have planned and practiced a home fire escape plan are better prepared and will therefore be more likely to survive a fire, he said.

During Fire Prevention Week — which lasts the entire month for the department — grassroots firefighters help members of the public education program visit all elementary schools in Council Bluffs, James said.

James thanked firefighter Zack Sadler for reviving the department’s poster contest, which ended seven or eight years ago. Sadler pitched the idea to Fire Marshal Alex Ford and, “Once he got permission, he was off and running. It’s a great idea, and it really highlights what we want to do with the community.

“I grew up in Des Moines,” Sadler said as people lined up for lunch, “and every year they had a program like this for colleges. I remember doing it. and I gained a year – and that’s a memory that I really appreciate. It fueled me – that’s one of the reasons I wanted to be a firefighter. I figured if I could bring this here would be a good thing to do.

After the pizza provided by Hy-Vee, firefighters pulled out reproductions of the winning posters that had been magnetically mounted by Sandau Brothers Sign Co. and hung them on the rapid response vehicle so the performers could be photographed at side of them. The department uses the vehicle for many medical errands instead of sending a full-size truck.

The International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 15 also helps sponsor Fire Prevention Week activities.

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