Hundreds learn fire safety

VIENNA, W.Va. – Hundreds of people of all ages were given lessons in fire safety with the help of several area fire departments on Saturday at the Grand Central Mall.

Fire departments from Vienna, Parkersburg, Mineral Wells, Marietta and Warren Township as well as organizations including the Mid-Ohio Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross and the West Virginia Division of Forestry participated in the fire safety event, now in its second year.

“We had a great response,” said Katrina Stephens, event organizer and marketing director for Grand Central Mall. “People were calling all last week to make sure we were still holding the event, which means people came here just for this and not to shop.”

Vienna Volunteer Fire Department Sgt. Nick Hayek said he was pleased to be part of the event, with two Vienna fire trucks parked in the J.C. Penney parking lot.

“This gives us more interaction with the community and teaches children that firefighters are friends,” Hayek said. “A lot of the time they only see us when bad things happen, so if they get to know us at an event like this, they may not be as scared.”

The mall, with the help of sponsors, gave away 296 smoke detectors to cover 145 homes during the event.

“Our goal was to cover as many households as possible and I think we were able to do that,” Stephens said.

About 180 of those smoke detectors were given out Saturday, while those who put in applications for more will receive them when the devices come in.

The Division of Forestry also brought Smokey the Bear and the Mineral Wells VFD brought Sparky the Dog.

Saturday’s event took place in the center court of the mall and in the parking lot outside of J.C. Penney.

Stephens said she was inspired to hold the first event last year following a number of fires in the area, including the Parkersburg fire that killed two young girls in February 2012.

“Fires are preventable,” she said. “A lot of the time fire prevention (education) ends when you’re a child and everyone needs to update their knowledge.

“Everyone needs to be re-educated in fire safety because often times the fire departments, no matter how hard they try, can’t get to a home in time and prevention and safety starts in the home and with the family,” Stephens added.

New to this year’s event was a blood drive held by the Red Cross.