In an ordinary year, Fire Fest would be more "fest" than "fire," providing a fun-filled day for kids and adults alike.
But this is no ordinary year - not when Fire Fest America 2002 takes place barely a week since three members of a Martinez family lost their lives in a tragic and senseless house fire. The deaths are Columbia Countys first from a house fire in more than 10 years.
Harry and Linda Spivey and their daughter, 16-year-old Holly, were remembered Tuesday in a solemn service at Abilene Baptist Church that featured a performance by members of Hollys beloved Evans High School Band. Through it all is a sense that these deaths just shouldnt have occurred.
That's what adds a sense of urgency to this Saturday's Fire Fest, presented by the Rotary Club of Columbia County. Sure, its an exciting, fun day in what has become one of Columbia Countys premiere annual events. But its also a party with a purpose: Teaching children about fire safety.
We have several documented cases where children have actually saved families right here in Columbia County due to fire safety techniques that we have taught them, says Martinez Fire Chief Doug Cooper, one of the organizers of the annual Fire Fest.
Its fun - and its serious business, too. Fire Fest includes a firefighters muster competition, in which firefighters race against the clock and each other in games designed to test their speed and readiness. The skills they practice in friendly competition are the same ones used in getting to their trucks and getting water to a house fire, in which just a few seconds can mean the difference between life and death.
And the fire trucks and fire safety house on display are there to help remind children of the importance of fire safety and preparedness. Smoke detectors will get a special emphasis: Fire officials say the Spiveys home had no working smoke detectors, so the family had little warning when a fire grew from their downstairs living room and overwhelmed them in their upstairs bedrooms.
Fire Fest takes place Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Doctors Hospital field behind Kroger in Evans. Admission is free, and proceeds from on-site attractions go to participating fire departments, Rotary charities and the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital.
In addition to the firefighters' competition and exhibits, Fire Fest this year features hot air balloons, carnival rides, a display from Fort Discovery, a petting zoo, and guest appearances by Nickelodeon's "Hey, Arnold!" and Smokey Bear. Fort Gordon's rock band, Code Red, will perform during the event, as will the fort's K-9 demonstration team.
Bring the kids for a day of fun - and an education that could save their lives.
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