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Riley alum returns to teach fire safety
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Tuesday, Jose Reza, Great Bends newest firefighter, shows students at his old school, Riley Elementary, how to put on the familiar shaped helmet he uses to protect his head from falling debris. October is the month the department designates for teaching fire safety. - photo by VERONICA COONS, Great Bend Tribune

Jose Reza, Great Bend Fire Department’s newest firefighter, visited students at Riley Elementary School Tuesday morning as part of a four-man team teaching fire safety.  Reza attended school at Riley as a child, a fact Battalion Chief John Stettinger passed on to kids as they gathered around the young fireman to learn about the gear he uses in his job every day.
Deconstructing the uniform down to every piece, he explained how gloves, jacket and pants were insulated to protect from heat, how boots and helmets were made with metal to protect from falling objects, and how breathing apparatus protect his lungs from heat and smoke.  Each item was passed around for the two kindergarten classes to touch.
Allowing young children to become familiar with the gear can alleviate fear, and that may save their lives, Stettinger said.  They learn firefighters are people that are there to help them.  And connecting with Reza helped them to see that under the suit, there was someone familiar they could trust.
“You know how when you get up in the morning, and you put your pants on, one foot at a time?” he asked.  “Well, we have to be ready at a moments notice.  We have our boots inside our pants, so all we have to do is step into them and pull them up and we can be ready to go.”
That got a smile from some of the kids, and probably made some wheels turn too.
The team of four took turns teaching groups of kids how to stay safe in three different indoor settings in the Mobile Fire Safety Trailer utilized by fire departments all over the county.  The trailer, divided into a kitchen, living room, and bedroom, helps kids visualize and have a hands on experience with how to be safe around a stove, the fireplace, and how to escape from a smoke-filled bedroom at night.
This is the second week the Great Bend Fire Department has been teaching fire safety around the district.  The Mobile Fire Safety Trailer was purchased in 2005 by the Great Bend Jaycees and Barton County Fire Chiefs, and is used by the entire county.