Members of the Fire Prevention Clown Class Òride the busÓ during a presentation at Harper Elementary School Friday. The firefighters include (front to back): Marshall Green of Thomasville Fire Rescue, Chris Plymale of TFR, Mark Stephens of TFR, Jonathan Paschall of TFR, Alex Garner of Moultrie, Lennon Jamison of TRF and Michael Dukes of Thomas County Fire/Rescue.

THOMASVILLE — They came in clown makeup — grease paint of various colors and wide smiles — and costumes of oversize shoes and patched jackets.

But behind the hijinks and antics, members of several area fire rescues on Friday sought to impart an important lesson to students at Harper Elementary School: Fire safety is no laughing matter.

“Having clowns go into the schools and teach prevention is a good idea because the kids relate to the clowns and the fun ways to remember safety rules,” Lt. Jonathan Paschall said.

“We are not only teaching fire safety but other safety rules. When a uniformed firefighter goes to schools the kids see them as just another adult.”

Friday’s two performances were the final act of a week-long Fire Prevention Clown Class sponsored by Thomasville Fire Rescue through the Georgia Fire Academy. The presentations for Harper students were their practical test.

Jadavious White, 8, got to help the clowns with a demonstration of what to do if a smoke alarm wakes you up and your house is on fire.

He said he liked crawling on the floor, pretending he was climbing out the window to safety.

Kindergartners Bria Singleton, 5, and Xavier Scott, 6, had a lot of fun during the presentation.

Scott liked the clowns dance rendition to “Stop, Drop and Roll,” alerting youths of what to do should they ever catch on fire, and Singleton liked the window demonstration.

“Cool Cat” was Scott’s favorite clown because he liked the skits.

But, Scott also learned something important.

“Always turn in match sticks and lights to a grown-up,” he said.

The clown class had six members from Thomasville, two from the Moultrie Fire Department, and one from Thomas County Fire/Rescue.

All presentations were conducted with off-duty personnel.

Thomasville Fire Rescue Chief Bryan Croft said the same fire safety programs have been delivered for many years and it was time for a change.

“We want to continue bringing new ways of educating our children and our community about fire safety,” he said. “We plan to develop age specific skits and programs, so we can target everybody.

“I hope to have more personnel attend upcoming classes so we can keep up with all educational needs. I am very, very pleased with the results today and excited about the opportunities!”

Firefighter Marcus Lee was unsure how the class would go because he is not one for performing in front of crowds.

“I’m not very good at speaking in front of children and am actually intimidated by it,” he said. “But, after I got into character and got the makeup on, I began to loosen up and realize it is all about fun and no one will know if you mess up.”

Engineer Marshall Green said, once in makeup in the morning, participants had to stay in it all day.

“One night we were all at a local store and ran into a woman that appeared happy to see all of the clowns,” he said. “She approached us and told us she and all of her friends thought she was going crazy because she was telling them that she had seen a van full of clowns all over town.

“She asked if she could take our picture. Then, she (e-mailed) the picture to her friends to prove she wasn’t crazy. The next day we saw her and her friends in the same store and she told them ‘See, I am not crazy!’”

Croft was very happy with the class turnout.

“Our goal is to protect lives and prevent fires,” he said. “Our people train very, very hard and keep their skills very polished. If we can prevent fires from happening through better education, then we are truly doing our job of protecting the public.

“I really believe this is going to be a huge asset and learning tool for our children. We have had very positive feedback this week from citizens in our community. I am convinced that the children will retain more fire safety education and they will help spread the message to their families.”

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