House fires are perhaps the most unsettling disasters families can face with possessions and sometimes lives lost.
Missoula firefighters are finding great success in helping put children's lives back together with their unique "Fired Up for Kids" campaign.
"That a lot of the programs we do as a fire department are kind of based on getting on, getting in, getting out really quickly," said Missoula Firefighter and EMT Mike Birnbaum. "We've done things where we give out jackets or we've given out little stuffed animals when we're at a fire scene. A little bit more stick and stay. We wanted to do something that was more meaningful. Not only for the kids but also for the crews."
"Fired up For Kids" brings the firefighters and kids together for an afternoon or having lunch together, a shopping trip to replace lost toys and clothes, and time to tour the fire department and have some new adventures.
"It's pretty spontaneous, and I think the more we do this the more we realize that the autonomy of the crew for them to get to know the kids and then to make that decision," Birnbaum said.
"And one of the thing that firefighters are great at is calling the audible. And so, you really don't know you're getting until you get them. And all these kids come from different shapes and sizes of families and situations and stress. So it's nice to sit down with them at lunch and get to know them and make some decisions on the fly and I've been amazed at the crew's ability to make a decision based on what they learned about a kid in a half an hour at lunch."
And it's easy to tell from the smiles all around the program is just as important for the fire crews as it is for the kids.
"And I think it gives us that opportunity to go a little farther," Birnbaum said. "I think sometimes you go to a structure fire, a lot of damage is done. A lot of emotions are pretty at the surface and then we leave and then it's over. So we have that opportunity to have an excuse to reach back to them and let them know we're, the public is our customer, and so this is another program that we came up with to say thanks to folks."
Birnbaum says a big part of the success of "Fired Up for Kids" rests with the local businesses who've pitched in to help the program with donations and sponsorships. We'll have more on that in a future report.
KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana