Kids ride to school on fire truck after winning contest

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

ALABASTER – Thompson Sixth Grade Center students Alexandria Dahrens, Nathan Grindle and Jonathan Hsieh were all smiles as they stepped out of the Alabaster Fire Department’s No. 11 fire truck on Oct. 28 to a chorus of applause and cheers from their classmates.

“This is really cool. I didn’t know the entire school was going to be out here,” Grindle said.

The three kids were chosen from among dozens who entered the fire department’s home escape plan contest earlier in the week, which challenged TSGC students to test their smoke alarms at home and then create a home fire escape plan.

Students received worksheets on Oct. 24, and were asked to draw sketches of their home layouts, emergency escape routes and family meeting places in case of a fire.

“We don’t want any fires to happen, but if they do, we want to make sure they have working smoke alarms and an escape plan already in place,” said Alabaster Fire Chief Jim Golden. “You’ve got to be alerted in case of an emergency, but you’ve also got to have a plan to escape once you are alerted.”

While working on the project, the three contest winners said they went through their homes and ensured all of their smoke alarms were working. From there, they formulated plans to ensure every member of their family safely escapes in the event of a fire emergency.

“I started with a meeting place first, and then just worked backward from there,” Grindle said as he held up his plan.

Hsieh said he took inventory of all the doors and windows in his house before beginning his plan, and Dahrens said she examined all of her home’s possible exits before determining the best route for her family to reach safety.

Golden said the contest was part of Fire Prevention Month, during which the AFD visited all of the city’s schools to stress fire safety.

“We went through all the plans that were submitted and chose the winners, and that was a challenge in and of itself,” Golden said. “We really appreciate (TSGC Principal) Dr. (Daniel) Steele and Alabaster City Schools for allowing us to work with the schools.”

For the three winners, getting to hitch a ride on a fire truck and receive a hero’s welcome from their classmates was an ample award for their efforts.

“When she came home after they told her about the contest, she said ‘We’ve got to do this, because the winner gets to ride in a fire truck,’” Dahrens’ mother, Jennifer, who came to the school with her husband, Chris, to see their daughter arrive at the school. “We didn’t have any trouble getting her out of bed this morning.”