Everyone knows fire safety is no laughing matter, but to get that point across to school children a little laughter may be a way to get children to take fire safety seriously and to remember what they learn about the subject. That is exactly what the Westwego Volunteer Fire Department has set out to do with a fire safety presentation in the form of an entertaining theatrical play which is designed to get kids to act safe during a potentially dangerous situation. The show is called Mr. Ray’s Safety Show. The program is actually adopted from a Colorado Springs fire department production and seems to be making its’ way around the country with adapted local influences, and it serves as an interesting and entertaining learning experience for young students. The emphasis of the program is based on smoke detection and evacuation from the home. It also stresses the difference of what a tool is for, in the use of an emergency, and what a toy is for having fun.
Assistant Chief Manuel Torano of the Westwego Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 is the moderator for the production while joined by two fire company members who play clowns to assist and demonstrate procedures for when a smoke alarm is activated, how to escape from a smoke filled room in a house, and the proper care for smoke detectors. A number of other fire fighters and volunteers assist in the preparation for the production as well. They performed the play at the Joshua Butler Elementary School in Westwego earlier this month for Fire Prevention Week. Gismo played by Jimmy Guillot and Puff and Stuff played by Jonathan Kietel are a couple of goofy yet serious clowns for conveying some great safety lessons. The star of the show is of course Mr. Ray. He is a puppet based on the real life former first Westwego fire prevention chief Ray Sandres. The children seemed to love Mr. Ray and really responded to the antics of Gismo and Puff and Stuff. Mr. Ray joins a long history of fire safety icons that have been entertaining children for decades. Everyone knows Smokey The Bear and Sparky the Fire Dog from past generations and the success those characters have had in teaching fire prevention and now Mr. Ray has joined those safety heroes along with many other puppets that have been used on television programs and videos to teach fire safety to kids.
During Fire Prevention week schools all over the country are tested for their response to emergency evacuation and presented with safety prevention methods. The play performed at Joshua Butler was a creative production with an extravagant portable set and various props which surely got the children’s attention. A few students were also chosen to assist in the show along with principle Rehm which is another aspect of the production to get the students involved interactively with the cast. The Mr. Ray Safety Show is now performing at schools and day care centers throughout the area at the same time they are passing on the presentation to other area fire departments that have express interest in doing a production of their own.