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Clowns offer valuable lessons

They may look like ordinary clowns, but don’t let the makeup fool you — members of the Denton Fire Department’s Clowns on Fire group have a serious message.

Their antics and colorful costumes play a key role in their mission because these clowns know that children pay closer attention and learn better while they’re laughing and being entertained.

Members of the group have been performing at area schools during Fire Prevention Month for 16 years, and they typically perform twice a day, four days a week through October.

The clowns share such valuable lessons as “Get out and stay out,” which teaches youngsters what to do when they hear a fire detector go off — how to leave a building safely by staying low to the floor and checking doorknobs for heat before making an exit. Once out, the clowns emphasize, the children should not go back inside.

There may be no way to adequately measure the impact of such a program, but visit a show and it’s easy to see why members of a typical audience — who range in age from kindergartners to third-graders — respond as well as they do and take note of the lessons.

This year’s 30-minute skit is themed around Christmas — a time when many fire hazards come into play — and focuses not only on fire safety but overall safety, as well.

An elaborate backdrop for the Christmas skit — complete with fireplace and stockings — was designed and built at the Central Fire Station, 322 E. Hickory St., earlier this summer.

A lot of planning and work goes into the clown team’s productions, but members assured us that they have a good time and that the children really seem to look forward to the show.

The productions have become so popular that the seven-member team has gained national recognition and now shares its techniques with other firefighters, conducting an annual class in Lewisville and at other events including a national conference in Arizona.

The overall goal of the program is prevention and to reduce the loss of life and property, but members of the unit said that they hope if children take away just one lesson, it would be to stay calm no matter what the emergency might be.

It’s reassuring to know that members of the Denton Fire Department’s Clowns on Fire are on the job, and we thank each of them.

Through their colorful communication of essential lessons, these clowns have taught valuable fire safety techniques to untold numbers of young people through the years — lessons that have no doubt made a difference in many lives and have been passed along to others.

Like we said, these clowns have a serious message — learning about fire safety can be fun, but the end result is no laughing matter.