Fire safety dog hangs up helmet
BY JERRY WOFFORD World Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
11/21/12 at 4:15 AM
Tango calmly sat below Dayna Hilton as Hilton told the gymnasium of kids what to do in a fire.
Then, Tango, an 11-year-old dalmatian, showed them what to do.
Tango got low to the ground and scooted across the ground toward a mailbox, to show the young children that in a fire, they need to get low to the ground and go to their meeting place.
After four years of teaching kids by example what to do in a fire, Tango hung up the fire helmet after her demonstration at Celia Clinton Elementary School on Tuesday.
"Dogs help reinforce this fire safety message," Hilton said. "When children come and see the crawl low, it's something they really, really remember."
Hilton, executive director of the Keep Kids Fire Safe Foundation, based in Arkansas, travels to schools around the country with Tango to teach young children what to do during a fire emergency.
Tango was given to her by Mac Finlayson of the Tulsa Rotary Club in 2008, with the condition that she come back to Tulsa to do more of the fire safety demonstrations for the kids at Celia Clinton Elementary, a partner in education with the Rotary Club. Tango was to fill in for the dog Hilton had, Sparkles, who was in poor health.
After one of the first demonstrations with the dog, a kindergarten student's home caught fire. The student was able to escape unharmed and alert neighbors about the fire and that her father was still inside. The actions likely saved both of their lives, said Tanya Davis, principal at Celia Clinton Elementary.
When the firefighters asked how she knew what to do, "she said 'I crawled just like Sparkles,' " Davis said.
Hilton said that story reinforced what she was doing and she has been back to the school every year since.
Children are taught how to escape a house, as well as what to do if they are on fire, thanks to Tango. Hilton also makes it a point to encourage the students to make sure their smoke alarms work and they have a family plan in case of an emergency.
"This is something that's a high priority on our list," Davis said. "Trying to get some awareness and kids that know what to do is huge."
Firefighters from the Tulsa Fire Department were also on hand at the school to show the kids what they do and their fire truck.
The students got a bonus at Tuesday's show by seeing who will replace Tango: a 4-month-old dalmatian named Molly, who was just as excited to see the kids as the kids were to see her.
Hilton said she hopes that students will learn from Tuesday's demonstration, and said she is excited to continue with Molly, but Tango will miss the life on the road.
"Today is special because this is Tango's very last fire presentation," Hilton said. "He has put in four years of really good service."
Original Print Headline: Fire safety dog hangs up helmet
Jerry Wofford 918-581-8310
In his last performance, Tango the fire dog listens to Dayna Hilton, executive director of Keep Kids Fire Safe Foundation, as Hilton reads a fire safety book to youngsters at Celia Clinton Elementary School on Tuesday. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World