Mrs. Hartman’s second-grade class sat at rapt attention when asked if they wanted to hear a scary story. There was a round of agreement, but it quickly became personal.
Portage Fire Inspector Craig Ratz told the Rusch Elementary students how one day he received a page to respond to his mother’s house, where he needed to pull his own mother from the burning building.
“Are you guys fast? You look like you’re fast,” Ratz said, telling the kids that if they ever have a fire in their home, their only job is to get out as quick as they can. “Get low and go.”
“Winter is coming,” Ratz said, “and as a member of the Portage Fire Department, I give you official permission to go outside in your pajamas.”
Ratz and firefighter Chris Ahackl-Frank gave a half-hour presentation to the class as part of Fire Prevention Week. This week, Ratz expects to present the program about 20 times.
“I think it’s better doing it in classes like this,” Ratz said, “instead of packing a gymnasium.”
Ratz brought a full set of rescue gear, with Ahackl-Frank demonstrating the layers and tools necessary to safely navigate a burning building. They made sure students were familiar with the sight of a masked and equipped firefighter in case they ever find themselves in an emergency.
With a few minutes left, Ratz opened the floor to questions.
“What if you don’t have neighbors?” one student asked.
“I just need you to get out as soon as possible,” Ratz said.
“Can I ride on the fire truck?” one girl asked.
“No,” Ratz told her, “but you can come out to our open house on Saturday and you’ll be able to climb on all of our trucks.”
The Portage Fire and Police department open house will be from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday with demonstrations from the departments as well as the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office and Wisconsin State Patrol.