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Fire Safety In Focus
Getting a lesson in fire safety, students at both Dent and Van Allen elementary schools enjoyed a visit from local firefighters to mark Fire Prevention Week.

Sparky the fire dog was a big hit at both locations, and was helpful in teaching students about the 'Stop, Drop and Roll' technique as well as warning them against playing with fire.

Handling the presentation at Van Allen was Escalon firefighter Gerardo Preciado.

"You don't need fire to hurt yourself," he said in outlining danger around the house. "Boiling water can burn you ... do not touch any pots or pans on a stove."

Students were also reminded to make sure their parents change the batteries in their home smoke detectors twice a year, typically suggesting that the change is made the same time the clocks are set to 'fall back' or 'spring ahead' for daylight saving time.

Firefighters put on three presentations at Dent Elementary and one for the students at Van Allen, also taking students outside for a close up look at a fire engine and letting them see what a firefighter looks like with all his 'turnout' gear on, including face mask and breathing apparatus.

Fire Chief Rick Mello said the annual visits to the schools for Fire Prevention Week is a good way to get firefighters involved in the community in a positive way.

"If the kids ever need help, maybe it will come from a firefighter they know," he said. "Plus they can take some information back to their parents."

For Escalon, like much of the state, the 2010 summer fire season is winding down. And although temperatures are predicted to hit the 90s a couple of days this week, Mello said the department did not have to respond to too many large scale incidents this summer.

"Statewide it has been very slow," Mello agreed. "That's not a bad thing."

Typically, strike teams from Escalon go out a couple of times a season but this year, said Mello, San Joaquin County crews were only involved in one call out and were actually canceled prior to arriving at the fire scene.

"It was a slow May, with just three vegetation fires," Mello noted. "We had 13 in June, 16 in July and four in August. In September there were four and that's where the numbers really went down."

Largest fires of the season were a roughly 5-acre vegetation fire on River Road just a few weeks ago and a one-and-a-half acre fire on Edwards in July.

"Other than that, just a lot of small ones," Mello said of fire calls.

The department's weed abatement program may have had some impact, with residents generally adhering to the call to abate properties and provide a fire safe 'defensible space' around their property.

He urged, however, that weed abatement be done early - starting in April - and not in the heat of summer. Both large fires over the summer months were attributed to residents attempting to cut down weeds or high grass.

Low humidity and high temperatures in the summer make conditions ripe for fire and any small spark from weedeating equipment or striking a rock can also cause a spark that can touch off a blaze.