Firefighters share fire safety information with Whittier first graders
Whittier Elementary first grader Mason Fackrell was only 18 months old when his life changed forever. He was burned by cooking oil that left him with severe scars on his hands and face. Several firefighters from the West Valley Fire Department came to his school on Oct. 25 to talk to classmates about what happened to Mason, and about how dangerous fire and hot objects are.
This is the second year members of the fire department have come to talk to the students in Mason’s classes. Mason’s mother, Shaye Fackrell, said the visits are important because children will often stare at Mason, making him feel self-conscious.
“The children need to know every year because they forget,” she said. “I want the other students to be accepting and for him to be treated like everyone else.”
Whittier Elementary Principal Lynette Golze said she decided to share the visit with all the first graders this year to spread the message about fire safety, and so they would understand what happened to Mason. Last year, firefighters visited the children in Mason’s kindergarten class only. She said the visit to Mason’s class last year made a difference, and she would like to see the visits continue as he progresses through elementary.
“Children have a tendency to stare at people that look different. This explains why Mason looks different to them,” she said. “We know that he has challenges he lives with on a daily basis. He is a great kid, and we are glad he is in our school.”
During the visit, the firefighters made Mason an honorary junior fireman, gave him a new sweatshirt from the department and spent some time talking about fire safety. Mason raced the firefighters to get their gear on while the other children cheered him on. All the students also had the chance to see two West Valley Fire engines.
Golze said the partnership between the West Valley Fire Department and Whittier Elementary is very important, not just for Mason, but for all the students.
“It’s important for the children to see the firefighters dressed up with their full gear and helmet so they aren’t scared of them,” she said. “You would never want to hear of a child dying in a fire because they were afraid of the firefighters.”
The Fackrells are very involved in promoting awareness about burn survivors. Mason shares his story with other children and attends burn camp, which helps burn survivors learn how to live with their injuries.
The West Valley Fire Department has become like a second family to the Fackrells and has helped raise money for the annual camp, along with other departments across the state, Shay Fackrell said.
“I appreciate the firefighters’ dedication to helping Mason in so many ways. I can’t thank them enough for their help,” she said. “Children can be mean sometimes. This was an accident and completely out of his control. He loves meeting new people, and it devastates him when they say something mean. This helps them understand why he looks different.”