Every home may have a fire extinguisher in place. The question is: do you know how to operate it?

To help area residents learn fire safety, the Township of Spring Volunteer Fire Department (TSVFD) has appointed a specialist.

"Some people have no idea how to use the fire extinguisher," says firefighter Lt. Ron Stoudt, a 40-year-veteran and the man in charge of Fire Prevention Education. "The more information we can get out, the better."

The 64-year-old Stoudt, a West Lawn native, has a busy work schedule that includes:

* Teaching youngsters in the Berks County Safety House (this is a two-story, RV-type trailer that features child-sized rooms and real-life hazards like smoke and heat).

* Coordinating fire prevention education and instruction programs for various grade levels in the Wilson school district.

* To conduct a safety inspection and "walk-through" at an area business or institution.

Next year, Stoudt will command the "Family Safety Trailer." With financial support provided by a grant, the fire department will receive the handy resource in September of 2007.

"The idea in purchasing our own safety house is to make it accessible to include all age groups," Stoudt said.

Facing a diligent work itinerary, Fire Commissioner John Schach, Jr. noted that Stoudt is ready to handle the job.

"We are keeping his agenda pretty booked up and he's doing a great job...I'm pleased that we put him in that position."

Retired from MetEd Center in Reading, Stoudt mentioned that now he can continue his focus on helping others and saving lives.

And that is something the happily married husband of 20 years, father of two, and grandfather of three, has been carrying out for 43 years.

His career as a volunteer firefighter has now come full circle.

Stoudt first joined the West Lawn Fire Company in 1963. He then moved to the Wyomissing Fire Department. Next was the Lincoln Park and now Stoudt has returned to the Township of Spring Department (West Lawn merged with the TSVFD on September 10, 2005).

Outside the Twp. of Spring fire station, Stoudt requires that his family practices fire prevention techniques. Since his son, Gregory, and daughter, Sherry were kids, Stoudt has been running safety drills in his home. He noted the routine that he explains to his family and also to anyone he teaches. "This is something every family should do."

When you hear the smoke detector alarming, crawl over to the door and feel it with the back of your hand. If it is not hot, open it and get everyone out of bed. (If you can't open the door, go to the window and yell for help). Continue next to the stairs and crawl backwards down. Get outside and have a meeting spot where you can make sure everyone is accounted for. Then call 9-1-1."

Stoudt added that the two most advantageous formalities are to frequently check the smoke detector and know how to use a fire extinguisher.

Remember this: When the flames are moving in hot pursuit, taking the time to quickly glance over the directions may not be an option.

For more information on fire prevention and safety, call the TSVFD at 610-678-5393. Also to volunteer as a firefighter or with the Rehab Unit dial extension 136.

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