By Jeff Noble / Staff Writer
A community came together to learn something Saturday.
They chose Lynn Camp High School as the meeting place.
Several fire departments in the Tri-County region were there to join them — along with some buddies of theirs from across Kentucky.
It was a family-friendly event. Anytime you get kids and firefighters together, you’ve got a friend for life.
Most of all, everyone learned something.
About what to do in a fire, or severe weather, or other emergencies.
About how to prevent fires from occurring.
And that smoke detectors — in good working order with fresh batteries — save lives.
There were plenty of new smoke detectors on hand. About 750 of them, to be exact. And hundreds were given away, for free.
This was the goal of the first-ever “Give a Beep” safety fair.
Out of the ashes of a horrible fire that claimed eight lives over eight months ago in the Gray community of Knox County, the family of some of those who perished wanted to do something.
The Disney family didn’t want other families to go through what they suffered. So they got together with West Knox Volunteer Fire and Rescue, and the safety fair became a reality.
Hundreds of people showed up outside the high school for the midday event.
At the Pulaski County Fire Commission’s “Fire Safe House,” children got hands-on experience with fire extinguishers, smoke detectors and other life-saving gear. The Kentucky Community Crisis Response Team (KCCRT) was outside the trailer — with “Lisa” the dog keeping a friendly watch over the place.
“This unit simulates what it’s like to be in a fire. The kids want to know what’s it’s like, and how they can respond. That’s why they’re going through these trailers, and it shows them what they can do. We’ve had an excellent response, and we’ve been busy all day. Especially with them getting those smoke alarms out to the people,” said Charles David Hawk, KCCRT’s Region 12 Team Coordinator.
As a little girl came out of the trailer wearing a bright red plastic fire helmet, he added the day — and the people coming together to learn about fires and emergencies — was a memorial to the eight who died on the morning of Saturday, March 9.
“It’s sad we have to be here because of the tragedy, but something good has come out it today,” Hawk said.
Not far away in the Pike County Fire Safety Trailer, a couple with their young son and daughter viewed a TV flat screen, looking at different fire situations in the home, including the kitchen, the bedroom, and an “industrial scenario,” which involved fires in garages and workplaces.
Inside the trailer, a kitchen stove suddenly showed something in the oven catching fire, along with a pot on the burner quickly turning an orange-red color. Simulated smoke also engulfed a nearby kitchen garbage can.
A West Knox firefighter showed a young boy how to use a fire extinguisher by reciting the “PASS” method.
“P” is for “Pull the pin.”
“A” is for “Aim.”
“S” is for “Squeeze.”
And “S” is for “Spray.”
The youngster took the fire extinguisher, repeated the steps, and knocked out the simulated blaze in no time flat.
“It gives people, and especially children, ‘hands-on’ experience in dealing with a kitchen fire. It shows them how to use an extinguisher in a safe way,” said Lt. Jason Gaddis of the West Knox VFD.
There was time for fun, too. A large inflatable slide shaped like a fire engine made for some happy moments for the kids, as did the free hot dogs and soft drinks at the concession stand of the the Lynn Camp High football field.
Several got a moment they’ll never forget — actually spraying water out of real firehouse, with a little help from the Artemus Volunteer Fire Department crew.
When the hose shot the water out, eight-year-old Cedrik Thornton’s eyes got big, and so did the grin on his face.
So did Kim Sampson of Barbourville. Her six-year-old son Aaron, and her five-year-old daughter Emily got their picture made with the firefighters.
“I’m so proud of them. They’ve learned a lot about fire extinguishers, they’ve learned about what to do in case of a kitchen fire, how to use a hose, and to call 9-1-1 first,” she noted.
The show of support from the region’s bravest was all around.
West Knox and Artemus were joined by departments from Corbin, Woodbine and Lily. Nearby, a huge trailer called the “Traveling Safety Adventure’ was visited by people of all ages.
It came to Lynn Camp by way of the Green River Firefighters, a regional organization from western Kentucky.
“We’ve a good, steady crowd for this today. It’s a real nice thing for us to work with West Knox on community projects like this,” said Anthony Pennington, Principal of the Lynn Camp Schools.
“The Disney family told us they want to educate everyone about fire safety, so no one won’t have to go through what they did. They’ve helped us make this a successful event. Between all the people who are here, everyone’s happy, the kids are enjoying it, and we’ve given out smoke detectors. I’m really ecstatic,” noted Bradley Baker, a West Knox firefighter and public events coordinator.
The safety fair was scheduled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
By one in the afternoon, organizers had given away around 400 new smoke detectors. They were given on a first-come, first serve basis to anyone living in the West Knox Fire District.
“We’ve had a steady stream of people asking about the smoke detectors. I’m really impressed, and overwhelmed by the turnout. It’s a show of support, and it has to help the Disney family. For them to be here and see all these people come out and be here for this,” said Darryl Baker, the West Knox Fire Chief.
His sister, Debi, was nearby, helping to give out the smoke detectors.
“We’ve had a ton of support, and people really appreciative of getting the smoke detectors. I had someone come up to me and say, ‘My son just moved into an apartment, and he has a 17-month-old son, and he doesn’t have a smoke detector. Thank you for giving us one.’ And the Disney family? They haven’t stopped thanking us,” said Debi Baker.
Wess Disney, his wife Rita, and their daughter Kristie Mullins were nearby.
Their son, Jesse, was among the eight who died in the fire.
Jesse’s fiancé, their unborn child, and her three children, also perished in the blaze.
Several people came up to shake their hand, to give them a hug, or both.
All were grateful for what the family did in helping the safety fair.
“It means a lot. If we can just save one person, after we went through, that’s the purpose,” said Wess Disney.
Mullins added, “It’s all about teaching people to learn something. The more you put the word out and show them what they can do to prevent fires, the better. Everybody thinks it won’t happen to them, but it does.”
By Jeff Noble / Staff Writer
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