Grant gives Gurnee schools fire safety books

Lindsay McCormack, second grader at Spaulding Elementary School, said she likes to study fires to find out what causes them. She'll have more opportunities to read about fire safety now that her school's library has new books from Gurnee Fire Department.

McCormack and 14 other second graders, chosen for their good behavior and superhero status in Spaulding's Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports program, attended a special unveiling Oct. 9 in the school library.

Chief Fred Friedl of Gurnee Fire Department and Mayor Kristina Kovarik helped unveil a case of fire safety books under a poster that reminds the students: "Everyday heroes read."

A $66,000 Department of Homeland Security grant has enabled Gurnee Fire Department to provide local libraries with fire safety books, ebooks and DVDs.

When the students settled into tables in the library, Alexander told them, "Our fire department did a really wonderful thing for schools all over Gurnee. They got a grant, which is what grown-ups do when they need something important."

After the shelves were unveiled, the students picked out new books to read, and each was given a fire safety book they could keep.

Debra Alexander, principal of Spaulding Elementary, said she read all of the new books. "They all have different things to offer. I learned what a quint is – it's a firetruck with five different functions," she said. Some of the books are kid-friendly explanations of fire history like 9/11 or the Chicago Fire, while others explain fire prevention and paramedic careers.

Cole Harmon, second grader, was reading "A Day At The Fire Station" because he wanted to learn about the sirens and how to help people, he said. His classmate Jayvon Scott picked out a book on fire department dogs.

Chief Fred Friedl answered students' questions and explained the difference between fires on television and in reality.

Friedl said, "Checking out books on fire safety also helps students think about careers. It's great seeing young ladies reading books about how to become firefighters. We're seeing greater diversity in fire rescue positions, and that's a good thing. Hopefully some of these students will be in fire and police work someday."

Katie Sellnow, public education officer at Gurnee Fire Department, said the $53,100 of the grant was spent on books for Woodland School District 50, Gurnee School District 56 and Warren Newport Public Library. The remainder of the grant was spent on fire hydrant display cases and bookmarks with fire safety messages on them, Sellnow said.

"I do not have an exact total on how many books, DVDs and ebooks each school received," Sellnow said. "I divided the money between each school as fairly as possible." Sellnow said she worked with the same book company [Follet School Solutions] that the schools use to pick out the best educational materials for each age level and maximize the buying power.

John Kavanagh, deputy chief, said the Gurnee Fire Department wrote the grant three times in three years to get the funding.

Mayor Kristina Kovarik said the village proclaimed October Fire Prevention Month to remind residents to check their fire extinguishers, change smoke detector batteries and plan escape routes.