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SOUTH GLENS FALLS — As burners, boilers and furnaces start switching on in early autumn, firefighters are getting ready for one of their busiest times of the year.

The first few minutes of a fire are crucial and having a plan in case of emergency can make all the difference, according to South Glens Falls Fire Company firefighter Matt LaPointe.

Firefighters from South Glens Falls Fire Company and Gansevoort Volunteer Fire Department spoke to thousands of students this week as part of National Fire Prevention Week, a nationwide initiative.

The subject matter varied with the students’ age, but the theme of being proactive in planning escape paths and monitoring safety equipment such as smoke detectors ran throughout.

LaPointe said proper planning can get people out of dangerous situations faster and allow crews to focus on putting the fire out. He said modern materials can also cause houses to catch and burn faster.

“That’s been the biggest push recently is getting out of the house efficiently, because nowadays with the amount of synthetic products our things are made out of house fires are getting to the point where it’s taking less than three minutes for a house to engulf,” LaPointe said.

Another large part of the program is to show younger students what it looks like when the firefighters are wearing all their gear, so they can recognize it and not be scared.

LaPointe said the large coats, face masks and breathing tanks that sound like Darth Vader can be frightening, especially in an active fire situation.

“We start in dress clothes and then get into full gear,” LaPointe said. “We show them what it takes to get the gear on, if we come into your house what we look like, what we sound like, what the air pack sounds like and get them comfortable with it.”

LaPointe said everyone can take steps to make sure their homes are safer, such as setting reminders to ensure smoke detectors are working properly.

“I tell them, ‘We’re all using Google Calendars now, set something once a month to check the smoke alarm,’” LaPointe said. “It’s fairly simple to start taking some responsibility for their own safety.”

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Samuel Northrop is the education reporter for The Post-Star. He can be reached at snorthrop@poststar.com.

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