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Cooperative Extension fights fire in the classroom

Posted 1/13/2012

Extension instructor works to extinguish fire outbreaks in White Pine County through education

By Andrew Church

Pete Mangum teaching youth about fire safety.

For over 20 years, Pete Mangum, a community-based instructor with the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE) in Ely, has worked with youth in schools throughout White Pine County to encourage understanding and preparedness when it comes to fire safety.

As a member of the Ely Volunteer Fire Department, Mangum coordinates programming between the department, the White Pine school district and UNCE. Mangum’s programming reaches more than 600 students per year, including both elementary and preschools.

Although Nevada is notorious for rangeland wildfires in the summer, Mangum says that household fire risks are actually the greatest in the winter months when furnaces, fireplaces and other heating appliances receive the most use. According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), young children are at an elevated risk for fire casualties, with 36 percent of deaths occurring while trying to escape the residence. Mangum says proper education is critical in preventing both fires and fatalities.

"Most adults don’t even know proper fire safety protocol," Mangum said. "It is important to teach children fire safety so they know how to react in case of a fire. Through this programming, we practice fire drills, emergency cell phone calls and how to identify multiple exits out of any room."

Pete Mangum teaching youth about fire safety.

Mangum’s programming also encourages fire prevention measures, such as installing and checking smoke detectors in every level of the home and using cautions when handling lighters and matches.

Another important aspect of the program is to introduce children to firefighters and demonstrate what they will be doing during a fire.

"Children tend to panic and hide during a crisis like a fire," Mangum said. "When firemen are entering a house with full gear, they look and sound like Darth Vader, which can be very terrifying for a child. We take care to demonstrate what firemen will look like with equipment, as well as what they do while searching a house."

The University of Nevada Cooperative Extension is the outreach college that extends knowledge from the University of Nevada — and other land-grant universities — to local communities to address critical needs. UNCE is a federal-state-county partnership with 19 statewide offices. Its more than 200 personnel -- with the help of volunteers -- conduct programs in agriculture; children, youth and families; community development; health and nutrition; horticulture; and natural resources.

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