Learning about fire prevention starts young

By TED WADDELL
Posted 9/29/21

BEACH LAKE, PA — Each year in October, during Fire Prevention Week, dedicated members of the Volunteer Fire Company of Beach Lake (VFCBL) visit local preschools and the Damascus School to teach …

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Learning about fire prevention starts young

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BEACH LAKE, PA — Each year in October, during Fire Prevention Week, dedicated members of the Volunteer Fire Company of Beach Lake (VFCBL) visit local preschools and the Damascus School to teach kids about the life-saving importance of fire prevention.

Anthony “Tony” Franklin, Chief of the VFCBL, has served in that position for 22 years, starting in 1999, and prior to that served as assistant chief at the Hankins Volunteer Fire Department on the other side of the Upper Delaware River.

He joined the local fire company in 1987, and vividly recalls his first call, a deadly motor vehicle accident on Route 652 that killed Kristen Umstadter, a 17-year-old Honesdale High senior who was poised to be her school’s homecoming queen, and tragically was the founder of the school’s chapter of Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD).

Adding to the calamity, in a story that garnered national attention as the “Highway to Hell,” the media subsequently reported that Kristen’s brother fatally shot the driver of the car.

“I grew up in emergency services,” said Franklin, while taking a short break from a recent drill night in preparation for the local parade in honor of the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and the company’s 100th anniversary.

Asked about the importance of fire services, he replied, “When someone needs help, they call us. They want to see somebody.

“Most people think we’re a pain in the ass, blue lights flashing and they have to pull over, or the road is closed by an accident; but when they need us, we’re always there.”

As with most rural fire departments, they are stretched thin: the VFCBL covers approximately 45 square miles, and when Franklin joined, he recalled they responded to about 70-80 calls per year.

Last year, it was 414 calls, and in 2021 they are well on the way to answering more than 500 calls for help.

Touching on the topic of fire prevention, Franklin said, “Fire prevention is huge. I remember fire prevention when I was in kindergarten and grade school, and going to the firehouse with my Dad as a young child… The sayings then were ‘make sure your cigarette’s out, make sure to change the batteries in your smoke detector,’ those things you instill in their young minds, they take home with them,” he said.

In a lighter moment, Chief Franklin explained that after a fire prevention demonstration, “The kids go home and drive their parents absolutely nuts” by reminding them to turn off the coffee pot, and make sure their smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms have fresh batteries.

“We teach ‘em what the alarms sound like” if they detect the presence of smoke or CO, he added.

Carol Henry Dunn, a local historian and relief treasurer with the fire company, stressed that fire prevention is important to teach youngsters, and, in fact, a page in their 100th-anniversary booklet is titled “Kids and Fire Prevention”

She noted that volunteer firefighters present tips and demonstrations for area youngsters in the early grades, including showing up with “a real fire truck.” Kids learn about fire prevention and receive a small gift to remind them to follow the rules of fire prevention.

“Each October, the fire company hosts a fire prevention open house, and fire truck rides are offered to local children. The fire truck’s siren is heard throughout the village… the fire company will be ready to talk about fire prevention once again,” during Fire Prevention Week 2021.

Anthony “Tony” Franklin has served as Chief of the Volunteer Fire Company of Beach Lake for more than two decades. He is pictured during a Monday drill night, talking about fire prevention and the importance of a local fire department to his community.
Anthony “Tony” Franklin has served as Chief of the Volunteer Fire Company of Beach Lake for more than two decades. He is pictured during a Monday …

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