Summer reading & fire safety

The children had a chance to briefly sit in a fire truck. Here a child is lifted by Cal Fire firefighter Coleman Wight from the Bass Lake station.
The children had a chance to briefly sit in a fire truck. Here a child is lifted by Cal Fire firefighter Coleman Wight from the Bass Lake station. Sierra Star

The Oakhurst Library’s Summer Reading program kicked off last week with fire. More than 100 young attendees had the opportunity to briefly sit in a fire truck, take a close look at firefighting gear, and learn what to do in a structural fire.

Because the children were eager to crowd around Cal Fire service dog, Gabi, Public Information Officer Jaime Williams asked for a show of hands from those who have dogs or cats. Most hands flew up. “Well, read to them. They like that because they enjoy spending time with you.”

Williams, who has found 2-year-old German Shepherd Gabi to be the ideal icebreaker, covered how to get out of a burning building safely, emphasizing that once you’re outside, never go back inside, even if your pets are still in the house. Leave their rescue to the firefighters. She talked about smoke alarms, which should be tested monthly, fire drills, and the importance of having a pre-arranged family meeting spot.

During the presentation, Gabi laid calmly nearby. When working, Gabi teaches area school children to “stop, drop and roll,” and to “stay low and go” under the smoke.

Volunteer Shaun Wenger, 10, a fifth grader, offered Williams his assistance in demonstrating how to stay low in a structural fire. With Wenger crawling on the ground, Williams explained that the back of the hand is the most sensitive to heat, so holding it near a closed door before opening the door is crucial. This will show if it’s too hot use that exit as an escape route.

Firefighter Chris Butler (stationed at Bass Lake), dressed in his fire gear from head to toe, told the children, “I may look like Darth Vader coming towards you, but remember I’m there to help you,” while firefighter Coleman Wight, also from the Bass Lake station, was kept busy lifting the children, one-by-one, in and out of the fire truck.

This year’s Summer Reading theme is Reading by Design, and the minimum age has dropped to include three-year-olds. For those under 3, the library offers Story Time at 11:30 a.m., every Thursday.

“It’s important for children to read because it helps with their vocabulary, their understanding, their creativity, and imagination,” Williams said. “And it’s much more productive than sitting in front of video games.”

“We want to encourage kids to read,” branch manager Dale Rushing added, “so if you like to read, go for it.”

Because last year’s grand prize (a boys and girls bicycle) was so popular, bikes were selected as this year’s grand prize once again. The finale party takes place 10 a.m., July 26, at the Oakhurst Community Center.

Summer Reading details: (559) 683-4838.