Quills & Queues: By Angela Howe Decker — It is never too early to talk to kids about fire safety.

It is never too early to talk to kids about fire safety. A recent fire scare at my house and the newfound knowledge that my kids are among the many children who sleep through smoke alarms made me realize my family was woefully unprepared for a real emergency.

Children under the age of 10 represent 70 percent of all fire deaths, with children under 5 composing the majority of these deaths, according to statistics from the U.S. Fire Administration. While the statistics are heartbreaking, the good news is that prevention and education can reduce these numbers.

Most parents know they should test their smoke alarms regularly, but teaching kids what to do when the alarm sounds is equally important. We expect young children to be scared in the event of fire. We might not expect them to hide from rescuers instead of fleeing the building, or to sleep right through a blaring alarm.

Fortunately, Ashland's local fire department is here to help. Fire Marshall Margueritte Hickman urges parents not to be shy if they have questions or concerns about fire safety.

"All of the Jackson County fire departments have a lot of information about fire safety. We are happy to talk to parents and children about the dangers of fires, safety, and emergency preparation," she said.

Hickman suggests children's books for teaching fire awareness. Her recommendations include:

"Arthur's Fire Drill" by Marc Brown: The popular and funny Arthur is an ideal way to introduce kids to fire safety concepts. The young aardvark helps his sister overcome her fear that her school will burn down, delivering important safety tips along the way.

"No Dragons for Tea: Fire Safety for Kids" by Jean Pendziwol: A little girl meets a friendly dragon and invites him to join her for tea. But their party is suddenly interrupted when the dragon sneezes and sets the table on fire. The spunky little girl knows just what to do, and she teaches her new friend to be fire smart, too.

"Fire!Fire!" by Gail Gibbons: This book describes different kinds of firefighters and different ways fires are fought. Young children may think rescuers look scary when wearing their protective clothing, so it is important to de-mystify them and teach kids that firefighters are their friends.

The Ashland library has a good-sized selection of fire safety books. Hickman also recommends these Web sites:

usfa.dhs.gov/kids sparky.org SparklesTheFireSafetyDog.com

After some research on fire statistics, I have to admit to a heightened paranoia about fire. I scared the heck out my son yesterday when he asked if he could light a scented candle I was throwing in the garbage. On the positive side, I'm assured that he also has a healthy fear of fire. He knows matches are not toys, he knows what the smoke alarm sounds like and exactly what to do if it goes off. He knows "stop, drop, and roll" and can dial 9-1-1. I've also replaced the batteries in all our smoke alarms and created a safety plan for the house. There are absolutely countless things parents can worry about, and we may not be able to protect our kids from every danger they'll face in their lives, but it is comforting to know that there are concrete actions we can take to help keep children safe from fire.

For further information contact the Ashland Fire Department at 482-2770 or visit www.ashland.or.us.

Tidings staff writer Vickie Aldous and Tidings correspondent Angela Howe-Decker alternate as author of the weekly column Quills & Queues.