Find Jack Banner OCT21

"Why I want to be a firefighter"

Four young kids share why they want the job.

by Vaun Thygerson
Staff writer and mother of three

Four lucky KCFM contest winners recently enjoyed lunch with firefighters at the Bakersfield Fire Department headquarters, Fire Station #1, met Fire Chief Doug Greener, and participated in this month’s cover photo shoot on a real fire truck wearing real firefighting gear.   Congratulations to Austin James McTeer, age 12; Chantelle Bradley, age 14; Elle Dwyer, age 7; and Wavery Reifka, age 7, for their award-winning essays, “Why I want to be a Bakersfield Firefighter.”

Celebrating National Fire Prevention Month in October, Bakersfield Fire Chief Doug Greener says this contest was a way to raise awareness about fire prevention while connecting with local students. “There were several reasons the Fire Department wanted to be involved with the contest. It helps us make Kern County families aware that October 7-13, 2012, is Fire Prevention Week and, hopefully, enhances our fire safety-related messages this month,” says Greener. “It was also another avenue to connect the BFD with school-aged children and their families, and we never miss those opportunities.”

This month’s fire prevention message focuses on new legislation regarding carbon monoxide detectors that became effective July 1, 2011.  According to Howard Wines, Bakersfield Fire Prevention Director, all single family homes that have an attached garage or a fossil-fuel powered device of any kind are legally required to have a carbon monoxide detector installed within the structure.  He also says that effective January 2013, this same requirement will be enforced for apartments, condominiums, and hotels.

The KCFM contest asked school-age children to write about why they would like to be Bakersfield Firefighters.  All essays were judged by staff at Bakersfield Fire Station headquarters.  The winners ate lunch with firefighters Aaron Dow and Matt Smith and watched a short video on the different aspects of the fire department.  “This contest gives kids dreams,” says Smith.  “It gives them something to inspire to.”

The winners also received a hands-on experience of what it means to be a firefighter with a tour of Fire Station #1 complete with a firefighters’ pole.  The students wore actual turnout gear and helmets.  Along with their family members, each one received a ride in a fire truck with headsets and all.  They even saw the firefighters in action as a call came in during their time at the fire station where the fire engine was dispatched to help someone.

Contest winner Austin McTeer, age 12, a seventh grader at Thompson Junior High, said he was impressed with the entire afternoon.  When asked what he learned from his visit, he said, “I didn’t know there were so many different kinds of fire trucks.”   

Wavery Reifka, age 7, a second grader at Ronald Reagan Elementary School, said she had a fun afternoon eating with the firefighters and learning more about their jobs. She also said she was really excited about was being a part of this month’s cover photo shoot.

Greener was impressed with not only the amount of entries submitted for the contest but also the caliber of the writing and the kids’ thought processes that went into their essays.  “We had an excellent response and quite a stack of essays to read through. It’s great to be able to feel the energy and enthusiasm in their sentences, and their interest in firefighters is very evident and really comes through in their writing,” says Greener.

“Choosing our winners was very difficult, because the essays were all so genuine and honest,” says Greener.  “All of the entries were creative and very interesting to read, but the winners showed a surprising awareness of firefighters and the fire department and were clear standouts.”

Fourteen-year-old Chantelle Bradley, a freshman at Foothill High School, said she was “speechless” when she found out she won the contest.  “My essay was about how firefighters help everyone in disasters and how important they are to our community. Just like doctors, they help everyone,” she says.  

Elle Dwyer, age seven, a second grader at Van Horn Elementary School, thought it was especially neat that the firefighters chose her essay.  She wrote about them, and because she loves dogs, she also wrote about the favorite pet of fire stations: Dalmatians. 

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