By Sharna Johnson: Freedom Newspapers
As the flames leapt through the metal grate, the spooked 8-year-old flinched before thrusting the hose forward, letting loose a stream of water. Zig-zagging it from side to side, she watched in satisfaction as the orange glow gave way to smoke and the flames disappeared.
“I was scared of (the fire),” said Candice Vineyard of the experiment designed to acquaint school children with using a fire extinguisher.
The Melrose student was among hundreds of area third-graders participating in Farm Safety Day camp Thursday at the Curry County Fairgrounds.
Cannon Air Force Base fire inspector Byron Cross said the exercise helps students overcome the urge to panic. The fire box used in the exercise is also used to train people on base, he said.
“Some of the kids get frightened, but it shows them it’s OK,” he said. “It’s an awesome trainer. It shows them when you see fire you can approach it.”
Other demonstrations included students plunging their hands into ice water to pluck pebbles off the bottom of a bucket to induce hypothermia, which dulls motor skills.
“It was cold. I couldn’t even feel my arm,” said Zoe Morrison from James Elementary in Portales, rubbing her goose bump-covered arm as she stood in the warm noonday sun.
Buses from regional schools filled the parking lot as classes moved from one demonstration to another.
Lawn mower, electrical, bee, grain, gun, fire, water, 911 and all terrain vehicle safety classes were also part of the exercises.
In its 10th year, Curry County Extension Agent and camp coordinator Stan Jones said the program has been a success.
“There are so many farm accidents. If we educate third-graders then sometimes we can get to mom and dad, too,” he explained.
Over the years the program has gradually become geared toward general safety and is not exclusively farm related anymore, he explained.
Each year topics are added or changed as appropriate. ATVs are a big issue and are related to a lot of youth injuries, Jones said.
Volunteers instruct children on the age requirements, safety guides and helmet use.
Also, increasing local Africanized bee populations inspired emergency workers to put on a bee program to teach youngsters what to do if they encounter bees or a hive, according to Capt. Karen Burns of the Clovis Fire Department.
“We do so many things that the schools need to do anyway and they can come here and get it all done in one day,” Jones said.