When a fire broke out in 7-year-old Adriana Ignacio’s Fresno home in June, she knew she had to act fast.
The front door was locked up tight from the inside and she couldn’t find the key anywhere. Her grandma and her two little sisters were in the house with her, and she needed to get them out fast.
Then, Adriana remembered when the Fresno firefighters visited her school. They talked in English and Spanish about making an escape plan, and showed videos of how to get out of a house when it was on fire. They said you needed to have two ways to get out of every room.
With those lessons fresh in her mind, Adriana led her grandmother and two sisters to the living room window, where her grandmother was able to helpl the children out of the house and then exit to safety herself. Even the family dog was saved.
Since October of 2009, Fresno Firefighters Local 753 have partnered with the California Fire Foundation to bring the Firefighters On Your Side program to their community. Developed by the Foundation in 2008, Firefighters On Your Side is an award-winning public safety program aimed at educating diverse communities about a variety of public safety issues.
Fresno Firefighters implemented the “Have an Escape Plan/ Tenga Un Plan De Escape” campaign, which is designed in English and Spanish to reach members of the Latino community that do not always receive the vital public safety information that other parts of the population do.
“Our firefighters run into situations everyday where families weren’t prepared and didn’t know what to do. It’s especially important to reach out to those that speak another language,” said Lou Paulson, Chair of the California Fire Foundation.
This especially rings true in Fresno, where over half of the population is of Latino descent, many of which Spanish is their primary language.
“As a union and as a department, I really felt we could do more for our Spanish speaking population,” said Gerry Smith, President of Fresno Firefighters.
And they certainly did.
The Firefighters On Your Side program in Fresno was a joint effort between the Fresno Fire Department and Fresno Firefighters Local 753. The union funded the costs of the materials, while the department allowed paid time for firefighters to go on as many school visits as possible. Tony Escobedo, a bilingual battalion chief, led the school visits.
“It is so gratifying to see the immediate results of these programs. These safety programs saved four lives. It doesn’t get any better than that,” said Escobedo.
Adriana has since been in the spotlight for her rescue efforts. This week, Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin presented Adriana with a resolution for her heroic acts and made her honorary firefighter for the day. California Fire Foundation Director Vanessa Errecarte honored Adriana with a Partner In Safety award for the Foundation’s Firefighters On Your Side Program.
Several Fresno firefighters also took her on a station visit and Fresno Firefighters Local President Gerry Smith provided her with a Tinkerbell backpack full of school supplies that she had lost in the fire.
To learn more about the Firefighters On Your Side program, please visit www.firefightersonyourside.org. If you would like to bring these life-saving programs to your local, please contact Vanessa Errecarte at (916) 921-9111 or firstname.lastname@example.org.