April 17, 2019PLYMOUTH – For seven years, the Department of Safety, Office of the State Fire Marshal and the New Hampshire Fire Prevention Society has held a poster and calendar competition for approximately 600 third grade students across the state. This year, Plymouth Elementary School Principal Julie Flynn and Annmarie Holloran of New Hampton Community School were thrilled to learn that Reese Querry (PES) and Hunter LaRoche (NHCS) were selected as winners.
"Every year, I look at the calendar and hope one of our students will be in it. For the first time, PES will be represented in it, and Reese is the perfect artist to have been chosen," said Flynn.
State officials believe fire safety should be a part of daily life in New Hampshire households; therefore, they sponsor the competition to serve as a reminder for some very important safety tips.
Boys and girls learn about the program in October during Fire Safety Week and are provided with a list of topics they can select from for their poster. In February teachers submit them for review by the District Chiefs and Fire Investigators at the Fire Marshal's office where the top 13 are chosen for the calendar. Each year, 10,000 of the calendars are printed and distributed throughout the state.
Poster topics can range from General Fire Safety for the cover of the calendar to Fireworks Safety, Electrical Safety and Home Fire Sprinkler Protection.
Reese said she chose Home Escape Planning, which will now be the featured illustration for the month of June next year.
"I looked at a calendar from the year before, and there wasn't anything on home escape planning, so I decided to chose that," she said.
Her poster showed a house with people gathered at a designated outside meeting spot where they would be safe and accounted for while waiting for the fire department.
"Always have a meeting spot if there's a fire," she wrote across the top.
Reese said her family has a meeting place but she knows of some who do not so she hopes her calendar page will encourage more families to have that discussion. The third grader said she was excited to take part in the competition and even more excited to learn she was selected for one of the 13 coveted spots.
"I think fire safety is really important. I go to the fire station about three times a year with the Girl Scouts and the fire fighters come here, too," said Reese.
Plymouth Fire Chief Tom Morrison and Deputy Chief Jeremy Bonan were among the many family, school and public safety officials that attended an awards banquet for the winners last week and the chief said he was very proud of Reese.
"I think it's awesome. It's pretty impressive that she was chosen out of 600 submissions. We like to target the Kindergarten through fourth grade students for fire safety, and this calendar contest is an important part of our fire prevention activities with them," Morrison said.
At New Hampton Community School, they were equally excited to learn Hunter LaRoche's poster was selected for the March 2020 page. Reese said he almost didn't enter the contest but a few days before the deadline he decided to give it a try.
"It was kind of surprising to me when I heard I won. I usually don't win things like this, which is why I almost didn't do it. I'm really glad I did though," said Reese.
For his poster he chose Kitchen & Cooking Safety. His drawing showed a mom at the stove placing a lid on a pan with a grease fire, while the father was moving the children away from the area. His poster reminds adults to always keep a lid handy when cooking and that children should always stay at least three-feet from a stove.
"I chose that topic because I want to follow how my dad is working. He encouraged me to do this," said Hunter.
Hunter's dad is Bristol Fire Chief Ben LaRoche, so fire safety is a definite part of their daily lives. Other than encouraging Hunter to draw a poster, he left it up to him to determine the message he wanted to send with his entry.
"He did give me one tip though- it's easier to draw people from the back then to try to draw their face," Hunter said.
Chief LaRoche, who teaches fire safety to students in Bristol, said he was very proud of his son and had praise for all the calendar contest does to educate children and families.
"It gives them a project to do. They have to take an important subject and do their own research for it. I think they absorb more about fire safety that way then just listening to someone talk about it," said LaRoche.
He also likes the way in which the program involves more than just the students. The boys and girls are encouraged to take part in the contest through their local fire safety personnel who stop in to explain what it's all about. The teachers then help them develop their ideas and students draw their families into the topic as they work on their posters at home.
"It really is a community project on fire safety," he said.
During last week's ceremony, the 13 winners were called on stage one by one where they were presented with a plaque and had their photos taken with Sparky the Fire Dog. They also heard from people who work in fire prevention and learned even more safety information that they could take back to their class.
Both Reese and Hunter said they encourage all the third grade students in their school next year to enter the contest and offered some advice. Hunter said the students should do their best and at least take a shot at it because they just might win. Reese advised that they take a good look at calendars from past years then pick a topic that people need to know and that they themselves consider to be important.