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Burbank Unified summer-school students have a blast with local fire, police personnel

Stevenson Summer School Safety with BPD & BFD (© Ross A Benson)
Burbank firefighter Chris Piligain displays one of the tools you can find on a truck company, used to force entry into secure buildings. The display was part of a Stevenson Elementary summer-school safety demonstration with the Burbank fire and police departments.
(Ross A Benson)

From fire hoses blasting out rivers of water to metallic ladders soaring 35 feet overhead, a safety demonstration on Monday by members of the Burbank fire and police departments delivered plenty of information, accompanied by a side of gleeful giggles.

About 175 Burbank Unified special-education students taking part in the district’s summer-school program at Stevenson Elementary screamed in delight and raised their hands enthusiastically during an information session with local public-safety personnel.

“This is something provided every summer to [special-education] students with an [individualized-education plan],” said Jordan Middle School education specialist Britta Davidson, who doubles as the summer-school principal. “It’s a fun safety talk to close out our year, and the kids just absolutely love it.”

Davidson, who’s been in charge of the summer-school program for four years, received a surprise when a firetruck and fire engine from nearby Fire Station No. 12 arrived, along with a squad car driven by Burbank Unified’s safety resource officer Dustin Rodriguez.

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“They usually come with one truck, so to have two today was extra exciting,” Davidson said. And we got to have Officer Rodriguez, so it was the more the merrier.”

Nearly 200 students first listened to Fire Capt. Ken Allen explain that all fireworks are banned in Burbank and that fire stations are designated “safe houses,” where students can find refuge if they are lost or feel threatened.

Burbank firefighters from Station 12 extend the fire truck ladder 35 feet into the sky as part of a demonstration for Burbank Unified summer school students at Stevenson Elementary.

After a brief talk, special-education students climbed aboard both fire vehicles and the police car, taking hold of helmets and knobs, turning on lights and sirens and perhaps opening their minds to career possibilities.

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“At the fire department, the door is always open for kids,” Fire Capt. John Freeborn said. “It’s nice to talk to them a little about safety items and let them touch stuff and see the rakes. Hopefully, we started a few firefighter careers today, but it’s really about connecting with the community.”

Freeborn led one tour of the fire engine and truck, saying one — the engine — contains hoses and water and the other carries an aluminum ladder.

After the tours, the firetruck’s ladder was extended skyward 35 feet, which elicited excited “oohs” and “ahhs” as firefighter Martin Villa raced to the top.

The demonstration was preceded by the fire engine blasting water 50 feet across the blacktop at the school.

Finally, one firefighter demonstrated the process of putting on nearly 75 pounds of gear.

Stevenson Summer School Safety with BPD & BFD (© Ross A Benson)
Burbank Fire Capt. Kenny Allen explains fire safety to several summer school classes during a visit to Stevenson Elementary school Monday morning.
(Ross A Benson)

“It’s cool getting to know how the firetruck works and the different types of trucks and see what firefighters do,” said Kaitlyn Preza, a seventh-grader at Luther Burbank Middle School.

Preza was one of several students who also discovered, much to her chagrin, that fireworks are illegal locally.

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“You see, there’s always something to be learned,” Burbank special-education instructor Andrea Seale said.

Seale said she was not just excited about the turnout on Monday but also for the summer-school enrollment she thinks is vital for special-education students.

“Retention is so key with special-education students because they can lose so much time over summer, just catching up to where a student was last year,” Seale said. “We see problems just over Christmas break, so summer is an even bigger issue.”

With summer school finishing up Wednesday, Davidson said she was elated with the event’s success.

“I had students telling me today was the best part of their summer and others who said they look forward to coming to school because of today,” Davidson said. “I’m happy they’re learning and having fun.”

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