Hamilton firefighters giving virtual tours, reading books online to help kids

Hamilton Firefighter Matt Hughes reads to children virtually from the Tower 22 Bucket Rtuck. PROVIDED
Hamilton Firefighter Matt Hughes reads to children virtually from the Tower 22 Bucket Rtuck. PROVIDED

Firefighters’ lives are more complicated lately as they try to stay healthy while helping coronavirus patients. But that hasn’t stopped Hamilton fire crews from taking on an extra duty during the virus crisis.

Knowing the city’s kids are home, away from their teachers and school friends, the fire service members have been giving virtual tours of where they work, and reading books such as the “Clifford the Big Red Dog” series.

The video series is called Stories from the Station, created by International Association of Firefighters Local 20.

“The first week, we had probably 11,000 views on that first video,” said Tony Harris, president of IAFF Local 20.

“With all this stuff currently going on, it’s something to take your mind off of it a little bit. You’re doing a lot more cleaning of trucks (to safeguard against COVID-19), you’re taking more precautions, you’re thinking about all these other things that are the COVID-related items.”

Hamilton firefighters heard about colleagues across the country giving virtual tours of their stations, and Cincinnati firefighters reading books. They decided to merge the concepts.

Firefighter Brian Rose, a trustee on the local’s executive board, has been shooting the videos and editing them. He and Deputy Chief Joe Stamper have taken the lead on the project, with many firefighters volunteering to participate.

Andrea Blevins, the senior executive director of elementary programs for Hamilton City Schools, provided a list of books that would be appropriate for the readings. The schools have been sending out messages to families about the videos.

“We’ll end up doing a tour of every fire station, and a tour of our administrative side of our building, so it’ll be six tours, total,” Harris said.

One episode will be a tour of a truck, and a police officer will make a cameo appearance with a book reading.

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Other features may include an explanation of how fire crews test their hoses. Videos are on the IAFF Local 20’s Facebook page, and also on YouTube.

“Pretty much every other Wednesday we’re putting out a video that is either a tour and book reading, or a book reading,” Harris said.

“I think it’s great,” said Joni Copas, spokeswoman for the Hamilton City Schools. “It’s a great way to educate our children on the inner-workings of the fire stations, and get to see them in a different light, as they’re reading the books, so I think everyone’s enjoying it.”

Copas added: “Obviously, it’s aimed at the students, but think parents and the general community can learn a lot, too, because a lot of people don’t get that opportunity to tour the fire stations, so I think it’s a great education tool for everybody.”

It’s fulfilling, Harris said, because, “You feel like you’re connecting with these kids who are at home, and you know it’s more of a struggle and a challenge for parents who are at home with their kids, and trying to keep them engaged.”

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