Firefighters enjoy helping people — especially children — and laughter is the best medicine.
So the local fire department thought the two would go big clown hand in firefighting glove.
With that big hands and big hearts combo in mind, fire officials in Grapevine acted like clowns on Saturday to promote National Fire Prevention Week Oct. 6-12 — an annual nationwide safety campaign — to make sure children and their families can avoid or survive potentially deadly fires.
The department’s clown troupe — the Buckets’ Safety Brigade — performed two shows during an open house at Fire Station No. 1 as part of the department’s safety awareness campaign.
In addition to the shows, the open house was an opportunity to meet firefighters, see fire engines, use a fire hose and see demonstrations and learn about safety and emergency preparedness. Games and free hot dogs added to the fun with a serious message.
“It’s important to support your local fire department and to get to know about your firefighters,” Deputy Chief/Fire Marshal Randie Frisinger said. “They’re the ones who are going to care for you whenever you have problems, and it’s good to get to know them.”
In conjunction with the nationwide program, the Buckets’ safety education team is performing safety shows at elementary schools across Grapevine in October and November.
Driver-Engineer Morris Leondar, aka Steamer, said the troupe provides elaborate and entertaining venues, which include song and dance, with one goal in mind: “Educate children about the dangers that surround them in everyday life.”
“It has been proven that children retain more information if they are entertained in the process,” Leondar said.
The station opened its their doors to the public for one day to give the general public an opportunity to meet with the fire department and their members, said Deputy Chief/Fire Marshal Randie Frisinger.
“It’s important to support your local fire department and to get to know about your firefighters,” Bass said. “They’re the ones who are going to care for you whenever you have problems, and it’s good to get to know them.”
Among those visiting Saturday was Roman Shevchuk and his 4-year-old daughter Natalia.
Inside an ambulance, she wore a stethoscope and checked her father’s heart rate.
“They’re letting her press lots of things and she got to play with a firehose and watch clowns,” he said. “Firefighters are awesome!”
The troupe consists of Leondar, Driver-Engineer Russell Chambers (Sledge), Firefighter/Paramedic Josh Santiago (Blitz), Firefighter/Paramedic Caleb Melton (Res-Q), Capt. Jamey Shipler (Sound Tech) and Driver-Engineer Sam Daniel (nickname suggestions welcome).
For more than a decade, the Buckets’ Safety Brigade has performed safety shows in front of thousands of children.
The brigade was the brainchild of a firefighter who dreamed up a one-man show that incorporated cardboard and foam props and some quick training at a “clown college” to help get the safety message across to a younger audience at area elementary schools.
Former Grapevine fighter/paramedic Harold Watkins, who became Melissa’s fire chief in 2011, had such a good time that the next year several more Grapevine firefighters joined his brigade with the full support of the fire administration.
Leondar was among them.
“If you can get down on the kids’ level a little bit and teach them through clowning, it gets their attention,” Leondar said.
Much of the material is original, and some is “borrowed” from other fire departments, Leondar said.
The troupe has been performing its Life and Fire Safety 30-minute shows since 1998. Props and skits are used to educate children about “Call 911,” “Smoke Detector Safety,” “Stop, Drop and Roll,” “Stranger Danger” and other safety tips.
“We keep the show to 30 minutes because youngsters have a short attention span,” Leondar said, adding that it is cram-packed with fun attractions such as puppets.
They prefer to concentrate on grades 1-4, because older children have become too sophisticated to benefit from their program.
In addition to schools, the troupe performs its message of “Fighting Fire through Education” at festivals, churches and various social events.
Leondar said they will visit seven area schools in October and November, bringing their message to more than 3,500 students.
“That’s a lot of kids, so it’s fun,” he said.