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Children's Village lesson is life-saver for youth

January 30, 1999|By MARLO BARNHART

Sometimes you don't have time to think. Just ask Joel Lambert.

On Tuesday afternoon, 8-year-old Joel threw a bag of trash into a burn pit behind his Spade Road home when his stepfather wasn't looking. An aerosol paint can inside the bag exploded, burning Joel's face, ear and eyes.

"I knew my hair was on fire," Joel said Friday, recuperating at home with his family.

Before Joel's stepfather could even react, Joel had dropped to the ground and rolled, putting out the fire and saving himself from more serious injury.

"I learned to 'stop, drop and roll' last year at Children's Village," Joel said. "They said we wouldn't have time to think if it ever happened to us."

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Joel said the can sprayed blue paint all over his face. "It burned my eyes," he said.

The flames caused some small corneal abrasions to his eyes, but Joel's mother said the hospital told her the damage was minor.

When John Stotelmyer got to his stepson, he saw that Joel was burned on his ear and around his eyes. He rushed the boy inside the house and called 911.

Within seconds, neighbor Robert Resh was at the house, having heard the call on the scanner. Resh, a sergeant with the Maugansville Fire Co., attended to Joel until the Maryland State Police helicopter landed nearby and flew him to Children's Hospital in Washington, D.C.

Joel's mother, Christine Lambert, said her son has first-degree burns on his face and a second-degree burn on his right ear. He was released from the hospital Wednesday and plans to go back to school Monday.

"He told me he remembered what to do from Children's Village last year," she said.

Begun in 1990, Children's Village of Washington County is located on Mt. Aetna Road. A two-day curriculum of police and fire safety is provided to every second-grader in Washington County.

"The lessons learned here are remembered for a lifetime," said Marsha Tidler, executive director of Children's Village. "A story like Joel's makes it all worthwhile."

Joel was a second-grader at Pangborn Elementary School last year. He went through the Children's Village program with his classmates in Karyn Ruckman's class.

This year, Joel is in Bryan Sirokman's third-grade class at Conococheague Elementary School, having moved to Spade Road in December with his mother, stepfather and brother, Corey, 5.

"Joel's whole class has made a card for him," said Pat Leonard, Conococheague principal and a member of the Children's Village board.

When he gets back to school on Monday, Joel plans to tell his classmates not to play in fire. And he's also going to remind them to "stop, drop and roll" if they tangle with fire like he did.

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