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FIRE PROGRAM SPARKS NATIONAL RECOGNITION

Six Salt Lake County firefighters have been featured in Time magazine for a fire-prevention program they have used to educate children for five years.

The Fire Prevention Players, as they are commonly known, take their fire-safety musical to elementary schools in the county, hoping to educate children about fire safety and prevention through song and dance.According to Lt. Dennis Steadman, the program is "the best in the country." He said "The Home Show," a daytime talk show hosted by Gary Collins, has expressed interest in having the players perform on the show.

Steadman, public information officer for the Salt Lake County Fire Department, feels the program is a huge success, with schools outside the county requesting performances as well as the ones in the county. The program, which runs throughout the regular school year, reaches about 80,000 children a year and already has 125 elementary schools scheduled for the upcoming year.

Organizer Jay Miles, the fire department's public education specialist, said the program has grown immensely from the 49 schools it started with five years ago.The six players include Miles, volunteer Michelle Harvey and firemen Jack Homen, Brad Tillotson, Burt Romrell and Brian Hansen. While Harvey volunteers all her time to the program, the men also put in a lot of volunteer time when doing shows for schools outside the county.

Miles said putting on the show "is an awesome responsibility, but it's been a real thrill."

"I've spent 27 years as a fireman, and I have witnessed and was part of large and small disasters. I've seen the hurt, pain and anger because of the horrors of fire. I carry these things in my mind, and this is the first time I've really been able to affect people for good - to make the changes before the horror and pain happen."

He said it's an incredible feeling to "have kids come up and hug you three or four years later after they've saved their lives" because of the things they learned watching the play.

Steadman said the first time he saw the program "it brought tears to my eyes, and I'm a 17-year, hard-core firefighter. A lot of extreme dedication goes into the program, and the players really deserve recognition."