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Sparky the Dog Bares the Facts on Fire Prevention in Brea Homes

Sparky the Dog is trying to make fire prevention in Brea homes as popular as Smokey the Bear’s fire prevention program in the forest.

“People have a lack of respect for the power of fire in a home,” said Anna Cave, 24, a fire prevention specialist who becomes Sparky the Dog in her frequent visits to schools and community groups to spread the word about fire safety. “If you think of it, fire is around us all the time, especially in the home. Most people react to a fire instead of trying to prevent it in the first place.”

Most fire deaths are in homes, said Brea Fire Chief Jerry McDowell, who feels Sparky the Dog will be a long-term factor in promoting home fire safety. “There’s no question that Sparky is an attention-grabber that gets the message across,” he said.

Cave agrees that she gets attention, not only when dressed in her $400, specially made costume of red suspenders, boots, fireman’s turn-out yellow pants and dog-head helmet, but also when she dons some of the space-age gear firemen wear before entering a fire-engulfed building.

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“We try to get to the young ones to teach them a lifetime understanding of fire safety that they can pass on to their children,” said Cave, a Whittier College graduate who throws kisses, waves and poses for pictures as part of her routine.

Despite her soft approach, the job can sometimes be dangerous.

“I had a little boy come up and kick me a number of times,” said Cave, a former Fullerton police safety officer. “We had a little talk.”

One of her attention-getters is pointing to the space between her nose and lips, commonly known as “Cupid’s bow,” and talking about burns that people can get from a fire.

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“The children touch that same spot on their face and I tell them if fire burns it, they can’t get another one,” Cave said. “They can relate to that.”

And Cave says she relates to Sparky: “He’s my buddy.”

She’s Yorba Linda School District’s new trainer of bus drivers, and Cheryl Bell, 37, a bus-driving veteran of 11 years, feels that she compiled some pretty good credentials by completing a program that allows her to train other school bus drivers. The grueling three-week training course in Sacramento included 15-hour days of study and homework and ended with a behind-the-wheel run on oil-slick practice roads in a 90-passenger bus.

When Deborah R. Chankin, 34, hired on with the Santa Ana Public Service Agency, her job responsibilities became less dramatic-sounding than her previous job--planning transportation for the Olympic Games with the Southern California Rapid Transit District. Now her executive responsibilities in Santa Ana include trash pickup, weed abatement and graffiti removal.

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Acknowledgments--Dennis Skupinski, 29, named coach of the Newport Costa Mesa Masters Swim Team for swimmers ages 25 to 70. . . . Marine Maj. Ron T. Coley, an El Toro helicopter operations officer and Lake Forest resident, received the American Society of Military Comptroller’s outstanding author award for an article on military financial matters.


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