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Putting Out Fires

Sep 21, 2015 08:37PM ● Published by Kevin

Phillip Baker doesn’t clown around when it comes to fire safety and prevention – though he does occasionally dress up as a clown. Mansfield’s fire inspector is a specialist in the Fire Prevention Division and an active participant in the department’s Fire Safety Clowns program. That program is all in good fun but, like many of the fire department’s initiatives, has a very serious purpose - educate the public, especially children, about basic fire safety.

“Helping people is in my nature,” says the 46-year-old Baker. “So it was easy to start teaching as a fire educator whether I’m talking to adults, or putting on make-up and talking to kids, after all I was the class clown in high school.”

But it’s not all clowning around for Baker. In addition to being a part of the department’s Fire Safety Clowns program, he is also responsible for inspecting commercial properties, locating potential fire hazards and violations and working with business owners to correct the problems. The department also offers station tours, organizes public education events and assists with home inspections and smoke detector battery replacement for those who need assistance. Lastly, he also plans the department’s annual Safety Palooza public event. He describes his work this way, “We teach life and fire safety to the general public, daycares and assisted living facilities. In anything there can be a hazard and it is my job and responsibility to point it out and correct it so no one gets hurt.”

Early Days

Baker grew up right here in Mansfield. His dad was a schoolteacher for the Mansfield ISD and his mother worked at the Mansfield Police Department. He says when he was growing up he was “smack dab in the middle of everything in Mansfield.”

He began volunteering with the Rendon Fire Department right out of high school when he was just 18 years old. He then moved to the Burleson Fire Department before returning home and going to work for the Mansfield Fire Department. He attended the Fire Academy in 1992, followed by paramedic school and was hired by the Mansfield Fire Department in 2000. He then spent 14 years as a firefighter paramedic before moving to administration. He was one of the founding members of the department’s Fire Safety Clowns program in 2003 (his character is known as “Res-Q the Clown”) and has attended various fire clown events and training all over Texas and as far away as Arizona. He’s even attended the Ringling Brothers Clown College. Counting all his volunteer and professional years, Baker has been a firefighter for 26 years now. 

Fire Safety-Spreading the Word

The Mansfield Fire Department has been progressive in getting the word out about fire safety. Baker says the combination of the Safety Palooza event and their other safety programs has allowed them to reach a much larger market. “We teamed up with the Mansfield ISD over the years for the clown program to make an impact with school age children, now we can reach their parents, too,” he says. “Last year we had over 8,000 people attend the Safety Palooza event and we are expecting around 10,000 this year.” The event is scheduled once again in October at the Performing Arts Center as part of the department’s National Fire Prevention Week observance.

The annual Safety Palooza event has continued to evolve with the addition of a “Learn Not to Burn” area, which includes a kitchen fire demonstration and a full size room fire showcasing sprinkler systems. There’s also the “Don’t Drink and Drive” course with pedal cars and “beer” goggles. There’s fingerprinting provided by the Mansfield Police Department, a kid’s zone with bounce houses and a project area provided by Home Depot and Lowe’s. “I think the most popular area is the Jr. Firefighter Challenge area, which allows school age kids to run through a course as a firefighter while doing a scaled down version of ESPN’s Firefighter Combat Challenge,” he says. For several years now they have brought the clown program to the main stage of the Performing Arts Center. The venue allows kids of all ages, parents and even grandparents to sit back and enjoy fun-filled safety lessons on things such as Dial 911, stop drop and roll, stranger danger, smoke detectors, crawl low in smoke and a review of EDITH (Exit Drills In The Home), just to name a few.

There’s no doubt in Baker’s mind that the city is a safer place because of the instruction and education provided through the fire safety programs the department offers.

Baker loves his job and believes educating people on fire safety makes a real and significant difference in saving lives. “We had a young first grader years ago that dialed 911 when his mother was having a diabetic emergency,” he recalls. “When he was asked how he knew what to do he said he had learned what to do when the fire clowns had come to his school and taught him dial 911 in an emergency. Good enough for me!” 

Read More

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