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Making safety fun: Fire Academy for Kids returns to Oxford

Fire Academy for Kids made a return to the Oxford Fire Department this week.

The academy was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19.

The OFD’s annual program began Tuesday, July 6, and concluded on Friday with a graduation and Wet n’ Wild Day for the students ages 6 through 12.

Started by Fire Inspector William Stewart 13 years ago, the academy has been teaching children numerous lessons ranging from escaping a house fire to searching for and rescuing endangered individuals. He said the highlight is the Hospital Wing helicopter that stops to make a landing behind Fire Station No. 1.

The program only happens once a year, so the OFD packed a lot of knowledge into a few days. Although the program focuses on information, it keeps the children physically active and engaged.

“We start out every morning with exercises — firefighter yoga, stretching, jumping jacks,” said Fire Inspector and Public Educator Josh Ferguson .

Students were also taught how to put out a fire, give CPR and call 911 during an emergency.

“They don’t only learn about fire safety,” OFD Chief Joey Gardner said. “We try to give them emergency services type lessons.”

It is common for many kids these days to not know their own address or memorize phone numbers, but the Fire Academy for Kids emphasizes the importance of knowing your location and relevant numbers in case of an emergency situation.

“I can remember all the phone numbers from when I was a kid, but now everything goes into a cell phone,” Ferguson said. “I want them to at least know their parents’ numbers and their address and how to call 911. We just want them to be better prepared.”

Ferguson said these lessons teach children how to stay safe and stay smart. The knowledge will help them know their exits and how to respond when a fire alarm goes off.

“When you’re a firefighter, you’re reactive,” Ferguson said. “I’m trying to be proactive when I’m teaching the kids about safety. 

“We’re just trying to keep them thinking about what’s going on around them.”