USA — When Elena Lugo and Andrew Cashatt lifted the Granite Mountain Hotshot’s backpacks, the first-graders in Beth Steen’s class at Abia Judd Elementary School were surprised by how heavy they were.
“Sometimes those packs can weigh up to 50 pounds, depending on the gear and water they have to carry,” said Ted Ralston, wildland code enforcement officer with Prescott Fire.
Ralston, along with Austin Mork and Phillip Maldonado, lead crew members for the Granite Mountain Hotshots, congratulated Steen’s class for creating the winning poster for the Prescott Fire Department’s Wildland Public Education Program and brought them a pizza party to celebrate.
“The theme for our poster this year was ‘Ready, Set, Go,'” Steen said, noting the idea came from something firefighters mentioned when they met with the class earlier this year. Firefighters met with each about 300 first-graders several times this year to talk with them about fire safety, wildfires, and introduce the concept of defensible space around structures to prevent fire from spreading, Ralston said.
About five classes participated in the poster contest, Ralston said.
“Each student in the class worked on a separate item for the poster. Some worked on bushes, houses, and people, and some of them wrote things like ‘Keep trees and brush cleared 10 feet away from the home,'” Steen said. “The whole class contributed one way or another.”
Ralston said the students’ poster will be on display at upcoming events the fire department participates in.
“The poster contest is a good way for us to gauge if our message gets across to the children well,” Ralson said. “The kids really grasped the concept of defensible space.”
Maldonado, who has fought fires with the Granite Mountain Hotshots for the past five years, brought a chainsaw that weighs about 25 pounds that he uses to cut trees and clear brush while fighting fires.
“I weigh 43 pounds,” said student Jensen Tenney, mulling the comparison.
Mork, who has been a firefighter with the Hotshots for six years, showed students his pulaski, a tool used in wildland firefighting that has a hoe on one end to dig up dirt and roots and a sharp axe on the other to cut through them.
“How do you become a Hotshot?” asked student Kyla Reed.
Maldonado told them it takes a lot of training and physical fitness.
When Ralston asked, “How many of you want to be a Hotshot when you grow up?”, about six hands shot up immediately.
Mork, Maldonado and Ralston then brought MREs (meals ready to eat), fire shelters, and other equipment they use around to students’ tables to look at up close.
Victor Pleva asked Ralston what the fire shelters were for and Ralson told him it was for emergency situations when a Hotshot can’t escape the fire and it provides protection like a firefighter’s suit.
Some students asked if the MRE was good.
“If you have a choice between pizza and an MRE, you’re going to want the pizza,” Maldonado told them.