Few careers take you as close to danger or require such intensive training as that of firefighting. Fewer still offer the satisfaction of saving and protecting priceless human lives.
Being a modern firefighter requires critical skills and the highest level of knowledge in fire prevention, firefighting strategy, hazardous materials control and emergency medical services. It also demands key communication abilities to educate others about fire and life safety.
For more than 125 years, McKinney firefighters have provided exceptional fire and rescue support to a great community. What began in 1887 as a small group of volunteers has evolved to 144 full-time firefighters in eight McKinney fire stations. An additional 20 administrators and other support personnel are among those who serve more than 136,000 McKinney residents.
While firefighters spend lots of time responding to medical emergencies and fighting smoke and flames, the McKinney Fire Department also spends a good bulk of time educating the community – to help prevent fires before they start.
Stacie Durham, Public Information Officer for the McKinney Fire Department, says firefighters visit schools, daycare centers, churches, businesses, homeowners' organizations, retirement communities and private residences – to name just a few. The goal is to communicate with as many people as possible lifesaving messages and tips that may save them in an emergency.
“We are passionate about offering a variety of educational programs to the community, teaching fire and life safety and keeping it on the public's mind at all times,” Durham says.
Citizens’ Fire Academy
The Citizens' Fire Academy (CFA) Was created for people living or working in McKinney who wish to understand more about the community’s Fire Department, Emergency Medical Services, Homeland Security and emergency preparedness efforts.
Offered on Thursday evenings each spring, CFA is a 10-week course teaching “anything and everything” about the fire department. In addition to learning about fire safety for the home and workplace, participants study CPR and fire extinguisher techniques. They also take part in hands-on activities, including rappelling off a tower, operating the “jaws of life” rescue tool, riding out on emergency calls, climbing a 100- foot aerial ladder, and suppressing a live fire within a controlled setting.
Beth Shumate, a 2011 CFA alumni, raves about the program, which she “absolutely loved!”
“I learned more than I could have ever imagined,” Shumate says. “In one particular session, after donning the firefighting equipment and watching one firefighter explain the calculations required to determine the correct amount of water pressure, I realized our firefighters are weightlifters, mathematicians, scientists, engineers and superheroes all at the same time. They are amazing!”
Durham says the free class accepts only about 15 students and fills up quickly. “We believe this program is truly wonderful, providing an excellent opportunity for education and outreach,” she says. “I begin accepting registrations on Jan. 1 – so register early!”
Clowns with a Serious Message
Another popular Fire Department program offered to all McKinney ISD elementary schools is the nationally recognized McTown Klownz.Available each fall during Fire Prevention Month, the McTown Klownz members are a troop of active McKinney firefighters who dress up as clowns and teach schoolchildren fire and life safety lessons in a fun, creative way.
“The McTown Klownz are hugely popular,” Durham says. “The program is full of comedy, puppets, singing and jingles, and they always include fire and life safety messages coordinated with the national message for the year.”
Smoke Alarm Program
The Fire Department also offers programs targeted to adults and the older population in McKinney.Partnering with the Seniors Helping Seniors organization, the McKinney Fire Department provides, installs, and changes the batteries in smoke alarms in the homes of low-income and elderly residents free of charge.
“Providing smoke alarms to our community enables the McKinney Fire Department to work closer with our residents and educate them on the benefits of having a functioning smoke alarm,” Durham says.
“Smoke alarms without batteries do not save lives. Working smoke alarms do,” she says. “I recommend residents check their smoke alarm batteries monthly, perhaps when you are paying your bills each month or at some other routine time. Checking your alarms is easy – just use a broom handle to push the test button.”
McKinney Fire Museum
Having just celebrated its 125th anniversary, the McKinney Fire Department offers a historic trip down memory lane through the McKinney Fire Museum.
The museum was built in 2007 and Spearheaded through Battalion Chief Darrell Groves. It allows visitors to view a history of the city's Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services as well as honor those firefighters who have served. The museum includes a collection of artifacts and photographs, log books covering its 125-year history, and an antique fire engine used in days past.
“It's important for us to preserve our heritage, and the museum allows individuals to see the tools used and review photos of those who served as well as showcase downtown McKinney,” Durham says. “Because the museum is located within an operating fire station, visitors are given the opportunity to interact with current firefighters.”
The McKinney Fire Department's foremost goal is preventing fires and other threats to the public’s safety and well-being.With a multitude of creative educational programs and services, the department is blazing a trail to create well-informed, safety- conscious residents, ready for any emergency that may come their way.
About the author: Carolyn Cameron is a local marketer and freelance writer who frequently contributes to McKinney Magazine. She enjoys spending time with her three young boys and family, reading and running.