Talking truck teaches fire safety
Freddy coming to a school near you

Dane Gibson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 06/99) - What blinks, talks, sings, squirts, has four wheels and flashing lights? It's Freddy the Fire Truck, of course.

The Yellowknife fire department purchased the $12,000 remote-controlled truck with money raised by Tim Horton's and the Volunteer Firefighters Association.

Freddy was delivered just in time to take a tour through Yellowknife grade schools Oct. 4 to 8 to promote Fire Prevention Week.

"With computer games like Nintendo out there, we're finding it very hard to capture children's attention. The props are used to make the safety program more visual and more dramatic," deputy fire chief Mike Lowing said.

Lowing and Lieutenant Chucker Dewar were at J.H. Sissons school on Monday delivering a fire safety presentation along with Sparky the Fire Dog and Clumsy the Clown.

"This is the age group that best picks up on the messages we're trying to get across. They take what they learn home with them and spread the word," Dewar said.

Dewar operates Freddy with a remote control and uses a microphone headset to be Freddy's voice.

"The kids just listen because they're so fascinated by what they're seeing. Freddy dances, jokes and squirts water so when he starts talking, they listen to what he's saying," Dewar said.

The message focused on knowing how to get out of your home in case of fire. Lowing said they've responded to three serious home fires this year. In one case, two family members received burns in their escape.

"There is no time of day worse than nighttime to experience a fire -- it's confusing and disorientating," Lowing said.

"Fire typically grows seven times its size in the first five minutes. That's enough time to trap a person in a home if they don't have an escape plan and a functioning smoke alarm."

Karlee Bell had a smile on her face when she left Monday's assembly to go to class.

"I knew a lot of what they told us. But they made it fun and Freddy is fun so everyone listened," Bell said.

Ben Doan decided after getting a close look at Freddy he wouldn't mind having one of his own.

"He's cool. He's remote controlled and he can talk. I'd like a Freddy for myself," Doan said.

On Saturday, Oct. 9, the public is invited to an open house at the fire hall from 1 to 4 p.m. to meet Freddy the Fire Truck.