Simon Johnson, a firefighter and paramedic with the Urbana Volunteer Fire Department, led about a dozen kids at the Urbana Highlands pool around a fire truck Thursday, showcasing the various tools and equipment used in fighting fires.
Later, he suited up in his firefighting equipment and, despite the day’s high temperatures, grinned during the safety demonstration.
“I love kids,” he said after taking off his breathing apparatus, grinning and wiping sweat from his brow. “... I consider it a perk of the job to be able to talk to them.”
Johnson said part of the way fire companies serve the community is to make sure kids aren’t scared of the people charged with saving their lives. He urged the children watching him suit up not to hide under their beds or in closets if they hear firefighters.
“I think one of the things we can do is make sure kids know firefighters are someone you can go to and trust,” he said. “I’m pretty aggressive as far as making friends [with kids].”
After the fire demonstration, the children were brought to the pool area where lifeguards demonstrated a rescue of a person injured after using a diving board.
Supervisor Michael Holt said it was the first time the Urbana Highlands pool had partnered with the fire company, as well as the first time they had demonstrated their rescue technique to the public — though the lifeguards normally practice it monthly. Holt said there hadn’t been any lifeguard rescues this summer.
Urbana resident Erin Pickett said she brought her 6-year-old twins, Isabel and Michael, to the demonstration and was pleased.
“I think my kids were interested and learned some things,” she said. “God forbid the kids are ever in an emergency situation, they’ll be prepared.”
For her kids, the appeal of the event was more about seeing some fire equipment up close. Isabel and Michael, as well as the other children, each got a turn shooting one of the truck’s smaller hoses.
“I like the axe that looked like a pickaxe!” Michael said.
Isabel also enjoyed the equipment display, especially the roughly 8-foot tall pike pole, used by firefighters to search for hidden pockets of fire and move debris.
“I liked seeing the big anchor,” she said.