The center where I work had a fire today.

Here's the strange part. The director had informed us in a meeting last week that we would start having fire drills more often, and that she might schedule some when the children are sleeping at rest time. Thoughts of how difficult a task waking those kids up off their beds and getting them out of the building from two floors up would be.

Well today, of course, while the kids are sound asleep, I hear from the hall way.. "That thing is smoking!" "Is it sparking?" "Yeah a little..." "woooosh.." "Oh no!" "Pull the alarm!" "Get the kids out!" Smoke was pouring from the classroom directly across the hall from mine. This was no drill. A baseboard heater had gone up in flames.

I didn't even wait for them to pull the alarm. I started snatching little bodies up off their beds two at a time and standing them on their feet. All I could think to do was repeatedly tell them "There's a fire! Wake up! Follow Mrs. Bowen downstairs! Fire, fire fire!"

You know the toddlers you see on those "My baby loves to eat and I'm not going to stop her!" talk shows? Well I have one of those kids in my class.. and all 67lbs of her refuses to wake up. I shook her with one hand as I pulled another little girl up with the other. She wouldn't get up so I bent over, snatched her up off the bed and stood her on her feet. She sat down, and I pulled her up again and pushed her down the hall to the stairs, her screaming a bloody fit the entire way. Did I mention that this child weights 67lbs?? I feel like telling her parents not only is this child in danger because it's unhealthy for a three year old to be that big, but also that they're making my getting her out of the room in case of a emergancy almost impossible.

Folks, if she had been normal size or even mildly overweight, I would have just tucked her under one arm and carried her down the stairs kicking and screaming, problem solved. But I had all I could do to lift her from the bed and set her on the floor, much less pick her up and put her on my hip. I'll admit to not having a lot of upper body strength, but I'm not a frail little girl. At 5'8" and 170lbs, I can hold my own. But this kid? Forget it.. I would have had better luck rolling her down the stairs.

We got them all outside in record time, under a minute and a half. The bad part was that the babies were freezing. It was snowing/raining outside, and they had no shoes or socks or coats or hats. We (the teachers) kept running back into the building to get their clothes and finally had them all dressed after about twenty minutes. The firemen came and put the fire out, (which ate half of the wall in the three year old class where the it all started), we got the kids back inside in one of the first floor classrooms. I ended up calling every parent to tell them to come get their kids.

That conversation sounded a lot like this in 95% of the cases.
Me: Hi this is Ms. Smith from the Waverly Center.
Them: Yes?
Me: I want you to know before I begin that everyone is perfectly ok.
Them: What happened?
Me: The center had a small fire today when a base heater caught fire.
Them: Oh my God.
Me: Remember, everyone's fine, but we don't any electricity and we're calling to ask that parents pick up their kids ASAP.
Them: Ok I'll be right there.
Me: Thanks, and remember, your kids are fine, a little shaken, but fine.
Them: Ok, thank you.

Sigh. I won't be making anymore comments like "Wow that would suck if that happened." Seems like idle thoughts turn into reality too quickly around here. I'm hoping to get photo documentation and post it tomorrow. The firemen had to knock a hole in the wall to put out the fire, so it's sure to be a big mess.

Public Service Announcement: I'll be purchasing a smoke dectector for my bedroom tomorrow. Do you have one for yours? And if you do, have you checked the batteries recently?


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