Boy inducted into Children's Village Life Safety Hall of Fame

  • Alonso Jimenez, right, a third-grade student at Salem Avenue Elementary School, gives a little smile during a ceremony in which he was inducted into the Children's Village Life Safety Hall of Fame. At left is Mike Weller, public education officer for Hagerstown Fire Department.
Kelly Hahn Johnson, Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN -- Before Alonso Jimenez went to Children's Village of Washington County, his family hadn't thought much about fire safety.

Their home had two smoke detectors. No one considered whether they worked or not.

Thankfully, Alonso does his homework.

Children's Village of Washington County is a nonprofit life safety education center. All second-grade classes in Washington County Public Schools visit the center for a day of learning about fire, traffic, water, pedestrian and other personal safety skills from uniformed firefighters and police officers. Following the visit, students are assigned a 12-point safety assessment to perform at home.

Alonso took his seriously. With his grandmother's help, he quickly discovered that both of the smoke alarms in his home were in disrepair. Alonso asked his parents and his grandmother to call the fire department to get replacements. The adults consented, but procrastinated.

"For adults, the biggest problem is 'out of sight, out of mind,'" said Alonso's father, Abraham Jimenez. "We don't tend to pay a lot of attention to these things."


But Alonso was persistent. Finally, his parents and grandmother heeded his call and contacted the Hagerstown Fire Department. Within 24 hours of the call, through a public education program, a firefighter had gone to the house and installed new alarms for free.

In addition to his parents and grandmother, Alonso lives with four siblings and other extended family members. On Aug. 26, 2009, about 2 a.m., while 10 people slept in the house, a fire broke out in the basement. The family was awakened by the new smoke alarms and fled the house.

Mike Weller, public education officer for the Hagerstown Fire Department, said because of Alonso's attentiveness at Children's Village, the family knew exactly what to do.

"They called 911, and the fire department responded in less than three minutes," Weller said. "The fire was very small. But if it had not been discovered, it could very well have taken lives of all 10 people and burned the house down."

At the 19th Kids Alive Fest at Children's Village Saturday, Alonso was inducted into the Children's Village Life Safety Hall of Fame. He arrived on the scene in a fire engine and marched up to receive his award along with the Hagerstown Professional Firefighters Honor Guard 1605. Del. Christopher B. Shank and Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II read proclamations honoring Alonso and the work of Children's Village.

"Children's Village is a valuable resource to our children and their families," Bruchey said. "Kids go away from this program and spread their knowledge like Alonso did."

Kids Fest offered an open house and activities including an auto extrication and K-9 demonstrations and fingerprinting. Between 600 and 700 people attended the event.

Rochelle Morrell, executive director of Children's Village, said the festival celebrates the success of the organization and publicizes its value to the community.

Eric and Amy DeMuth attended the festival last year and returned this year.

"It was a lot of fun," Amy DeMuth said. "I like how the kids learn about safety. They really explain details and what's important."

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