(Photos by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Flames shot out of the small wood-frame house and thick black smoke filled the sky. Inside were five children ranging in age from 1 1/2 to 10, unable to escape the blaze.
This fatal fire that happened Monday in Mississippi, like so many others, could have been prevented by a few simple fire safety tips. These tips are what fire departments across the country are trying to teach as part of Fire Prevention Week that runs through Saturday.
"The United States has the highest number of fire deaths every year," said Capt. Jim Hailey of the Sikeston Department of Public Safety. "The annual loss from fire is extensive, not only in dollars and cents and injuries but also in the keepsakes that are lost. Items you just can't go back and replace like pictures."
New Miner Fire Chief Benny Thurston said the week is an opportunity to educate the public on fire safety.
The focus of Fire Prevention Week is on teaching children fire safety.
"We try to visit every school in the (Sikeston Public School system)," Hailey said. "We show them a video, our equipment and give them a fire safety talk. If the schools want it we will do a smoke-filled room."
In the smoke-filled room, the students are able to see what it is like to be in a room full of smoke and are taught how to get to safety.
Both Hailey and Thurston said it was very important to teach fire safety to children at a young age.
Thurston said there are three major things he tries to get across to children. "One is to check their smoke detectors and make sure they are working," Thurston said. "Two is to make plans to get out of the home if there is a fire and to practice that plan and three is stop, drop and roll."
Hailey said another important thing they try to teach to children is not to play with matches.
"We have at least four or five fires started every year by kids playing with matches," he said.
Fire Prevention Week is more than just teaching children as parents also need to be involved. That is where the children can help.
"When you teach the kids a lot of times they will take it home to their parents and get them involved," said Thurston, who is also going to businesses in Miner passing out literature on fire safety.
"It is also a good time to check your smoke detector," Thurston said. "Make sure it is working and that it has new batteries."
And while Fire Prevention Week is just one week, all firemen agreed it is what is learned in that week that can help prevent fires like the one that happened Monday in Mississippi.