CANAAN — Fourth graders at the Canaan Elementary School found their way through a smoke-filled bedroom Friday afternoon after learning some important fire safety tips from the town’s fire department.

The activity — which included fake smoke made of sugar water vapor — was scheduled on the final day of Fire Prevention Week, a national week of education commemorating the Chicago Fire of 1871, a fire that killed more than 250 people.

“I do think it helps,” said Captain Charlie Worcester of the Canaan Fire Department. “As the kids get older, they remember the questions we ask and are able to give us back the responses we taught them in years prior.”

Every year the Fire Department visits the school during Fire Prevention Week to review fire safety and walk students through a “smoke house” filled with vapor.

The students are asked to point out potential fire hazards in the house, such as an aerosol can left near a wood stove, a taped electrical cord or pots and pans on a stove with their handles facing outwards.

They also review fire safety tips, such as how to get the attention of a firefighter by being loud and staying visible if you are trapped; having a designated safe spot to go to and an emergency evacuation plan; and the importance of not going back into a burning building to get anything, even a pet.

“It gives the kids the chance to prepare for an emergency,” said fourth grade teacher Jessica Crowell. “There are so many times when they may not know what to do, and the more you can practice it the more you can prevent a possible disaster.”

In September alone the town of Canaan saw three homes destroyed by fire. One of those fires included a family of five who lost their home on Main Street because of a cooking fire.

“We’ve had several fires in our community this summer,” Crowell said. “The kids are going to be more prepared and less afraid of firefighters coming into their house with activities like this.”

One of the biggest challenges to working with kids on fire safety is getting them to know their addresses, Worcester said. With more families relying on cell phones, it is less likely that the address associated with the phone will show up for 911 dispatchers, he said.

“It’s important to get across to kids that they should at least know what street they live on,” he said.

He also recommends that families check the batteries in their smoke detectors regularly. It is good to set a regular time to check the batteries, such as when the time changes back to standard time from daylight saving time when many people are already checking their clocks, he said.

Natasha Rairdon, 9, said she was nervous to practice calling 911 on Friday because it felt like a real emergency.

“I was scared because I didn’t know what to say,” she said, but added that after she had made the practice phone call she wasn’t nervous anymore.

“Giving them these skills could actually save their whole family in the event of an emergency,” said Canaan Elementary School Principal Steve Swindells. “It’s a really valuable thing to have.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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