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To be very young or very old is to risk death by fire.

Statistics prove it out.Children 5 and under - along with the elderly - have the highest fire death rates in the United States.

Preschoolers average more than twice the national average with 44 fire deaths per million children.

That's why Orem firefighters are interested in teaching youngsters not to burn and how to survive fire.

They're introducing the "Learn Not to Burn" fire safety program to the first 20 preschools in the area to show an interest.

"Orem won the 1994 Learn Not To Burn Champion award from the National Fire Protection Association," said specialist Dave Eckersly with Orem Fire Station No. 1.

"This award was given to 60 sites in the United States and Canada and results in our getting materials enough for 20 preschools," said Eckersly.

Materials include a colorful glossy-cover workbook chock full of activities, information and exercises all designed to teach common-sense safety ideas.

There's also a tape of lively songs recorded by Jim Post that reinforces the instruction.

"These don't scare children," said Eckersly. "At the same time, they teach the kinds of skills that can save their lives."

Children are taught how to stay out of life-threatening situations as well as how to deal with fire emergencies.

They learn not to play with matches or cigarette lighters and to leave hot things alone.

Children playing with matches and cigarette lighters and other fire sources started about 146,940 fires per year from 1984-1988. Those fires killed 432 children. Preschoolers were the most frequent victims.

The program teaches children to "stop, drop and roll."

They're taught to crawl low under smoke and cool burns with water.

They learn to recognize who can help them. "Never hide - shout out so the firefighter will know where you are," is the advice.

Eight basic behaviors form the foundation for 14 more that can be taught in kindergarten through third grade, preparing youngsters for almost any situation they'll encounter with fire.

Eckersly believes the opportunity shouldn't be ignored.

"We have these materials available at no cost to the preschool," said Eckersly. "We only ask that the teachers come in for a short briefing."

To contact Eckersly phone the fire station at 229-7070.