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Fire captain, mother tell parents to teach children fire safety

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SALT LAKE CITY — Fire is a natural curiosity for kids and they're always interested in how it works, and a Salt Lake City mother and fire captain said parents need to teach children about fire safety.

Decades ago, Nikki Weekes was about 3 years old when she accidentally burnt her house down.

"I remember sitting on the couch," Weekes said. "I remember the logical sequence that was going on in my head at the time. My ankles are getting cold, everything else is warm, how do you close that gap.

"I rationalized that it was perfectly a great idea that I cover up the heater."

Moments later, the oxygen-deprived heater burst into flames.

"I obviously didn't understand the implications of doing that — doesn't seem in my child mind that there was going to be any problem," Weekes said.

Weekes now is a mother to four children, and she said she is working very hard to teach her kids fire safety so they don't experience what she did as a child.

The National Fire Protection Agency reported that in 2010, heating equipment was involved in more than 57,000 reported house fires, 490 deaths, and more than 1,500 injuries.

"We have to be really diligent on keeping our kids safe because it's too tragic of an event to have a kid injured or killed," said Capt. Jeffery Vaugn. "At what point to do they do stop, drop and roll or at what point a fire extinguisher or just get out (of the house)."

Vaugn said that parents need to teach their children about fire safety from an early age.

"Just a few minutes on the parent's side, on education, watching the children and then doing a few things differently can keep their child from a burn or worse," he said. "The fire will find you. It doesn't hide, but it will find you if you hide."

Vaugn said that in 2008, he responded to a house fire in Salt lake City. The fire was started by a child playing with matches in his home.

"The scary part of it is, they started a fire in the basement, and their reaction was to hide," he said. "If the child would have gone to his parents or outside he would have been okay, but instead he hid and was killed."

Vaughn and Weekes both said that the trick is to not to scare your child so much that they can't function, but to make sure you empower them with the knowledge and tools to get out of a fire safely.


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