"To prevent fires from starting." That's the first sentence of the Pine-Strawberry Fire Department mission statement and the answer to questions posed by Wayne Terry in a letter to the editor on May 11.
Mr. Terry slandered our education program in that letter. I am responding, not to throw stones, but to educate.
The Characterization Conference PSFD pays for it by AFBEA (Arizona Fire & Burn Educators Assoc.), a statewide recognized organization that trains educators how to teach people of all ages life safety. Our team, AFBEA members, attended, teach, and receive recognition at this conference each year, along with over 300 other firefighters, police officers, dispatchers and EMS workers from across the country.
We are not party, face-painting, or balloon-tying clowns as Terry suggested in his letter. We are education tools. This method of teaching has been proven effective in schools for over 20 years.
Our education team is also respected members of two nationally recognized groups, LAFS (Life and Fire Safety) and SMILES (Safety Messages In Law Enforcement). Dues are paid and other conferences are attended, on our own bill and time. Terry is misinformed that we receive pay. Our team works more than 200 hours per year building sets, creating programs and performing, all at no cost to the taxpayers.
Every budget season, we fight to secure $2,000 for handouts, education materials, and the favorite, plastic fire hats. Each year, it is explained to Mr. Gooder why these items are necessary. He continually focuses on the outfits worn and the places we teach, instead of the importance of the messages taught. Ironically, he asks us to be entertainers at community events, but then becomes our most vocal critic, in not supporting us as educators.
Despite the lack of support, we continue with programs, performing on our days off and using personal vehicles to transport equipment. In addition, we use vacation days to further our education and assist other departments in developing programs. With all that, it is important that Mr. Terry understand, the only taxpayers paying for clown noses and shoes are those wearing them.
As far as anyone suffering unduly, that is what we prevent with our life-saving lessons. We are not professional clowns. We are professional firefighters, who believe in our mission statement.
Fighting fire with fire prevention -- paid or not.
Stacy Figueroa, Pine-Strawberry Firefighter/Public Educator