Fire safety heats up La Plata

Book en­cour­ages fam­i­lies to prac­tice fire safety

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By SARA NEW­MAN snew­man@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @in­dy_­com­mu­nity

Not all su­per­heroes fly through the air. Some burst onto the scene in a firetruck to bat­tle a blaze that only knowl­edge and prepa­ra­tion can ex­tin­guish.

Michael Fur­man, the cre­ator, au­thor and il­lus­tra­tor of “Flash Max Fire Safety Su­per Hero,” said the idea for the chil­dren’s book came from his own young ones af­ter wit­ness­ing their dis­in­ter­est in some fire safety fly­ers.

“My lit­tle ones who are in ele­men­tary school came home two years ago from fire preven­tion week and we came across some ma­te­ri­als that the lo­cal fire­house brought by and while we were go­ing through things they took the fire preven­tion ma­te­ri­als and threw them away. I thought the mes­sage was go­ing right into the trash... and I thought it was a damn shame.”

As a pro­fes­sional fire­fighter for 16 years with the Fair­fax County Fire and Res­cue De­part­ment and a 30-year fire­fighter and life mem­ber of the La Plata Vol­un­teer Fire De­part­ment, Fur­man knew the im­por­tance of fire safety and wit­nessed it daily. He said af­ter the tragic Anne Arun­del County man­sion fire that killed six peo­ple, four chil­dren and their grand­par­ents, af­ter a Christ­mas tree caught fire, he knew he had to do some­thing.

The Wel­come res­i­dent and fa­ther of three said the idea for his book hit him “like a ton of bricks.”

“A big part of our jobs is not just putting out fires but it’s try­ing to pre­vent those 911 calls and those fires from hap­pen­ing in the first place,” Fur­man said.

He cre­ated a char­ac­ter he hopes will en­gage chil­dren and par­ents and en­cour­age them to read the story to­gether and heed Flash Max’s mes­sage of hav­ing a fire es­cape plan in place and prac­tic­ing it reg­u­larly.

“[The book] breathes new life into a decades old mes­sage. A very im­por­tant mes­sage is get­ting lost in the de­liv­ery. It’s dry and peo­ple think it won’t hap­pen to them. [The book] makes it in­ter­est­ing be­cause kids nowa­days grav­i­tate to­wards su­per­heroes,” Fur­man said.

Fur­man said the Pfun-om­e­nal Sto­ries pub­lished book be­gins with an in­tro­duc­tion to Flash Max and his smoke alarm shield. The story’s arch neme­sis, Blaze, is fire per­son­i­fied in a non-in­tim­i­dat­ing way, Fur­man said.

The book also dis­cusses how fire safety weeks be­gan, how to in­stall and main­tain smoke alarms and what to do when the alarm goes off.

“Fire­fight­ers train and drill on what to do in a hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment but when kids and fam­i­lies wake up in smoke in the mid­dle of the night with a fire alarm go­ing off it doesn’t mat­ter if you’ve lived in your house for 20 years you’ll get lost and dis­ori­ented,” Fur­man said.

The au­thor said he hopes Flash Max will en­cour­age read­ers to live by the motto, “Fam­i­lies who prac­tice to­gether, sur­vive to­gether.”

“I ask the kids ‘how many of you play sports?’ and all of them raise their hands. ‘What do you do be­fore a game?’ ‘You prac­tice.’ ‘Ex­actly.’ You prac­tice and it be­comes mus­cle mem­ory and that’s what needs to hap­pen. Make it fun, like a fam­ily game night or some­thing.”

Fur­man is host­ing a book re­lease and sign­ing event 5-7 p.m. Wed­nes­day, Dec. 14, at the La Plata Vol­un­teer Fire De­part­ment, where Fur­man said he be­gan his ca­reer as a fire­fighter.

In ad­di­tion to mu­sic and games, the event will fea­ture a Toys for Tots col­lec­tion and an ap­pear­ance by Flash Max.

Now that his first book is com­plete, Fur­man said he is work­ing on a few other projects in­clud­ing a Flash Max se­quel and fire safety cal­en­dar that ded­i­cates each month to a dif­fer­ent safety theme through­out the year.

SUB­MIT­TED PHO­TOS

Flash Max, the ti­tle char­ac­ter in Michael Fur­man’s book “Flash Max Fire Safety Su­per­hero,” teaches chil­dren and fam­i­lies to prac­tice fire safety at home so they are pre­pared if a dis­as­ter should hap­pen.

Flash Max Fire Safety Su­per­hero is a story writ­ten and il­lus­trated by Michael Fur­man, a 30-year fire­fight­ing vet­eran, who aims to en­cour­age fam­i­lies to de­velop their own fire es­cape plan and prac­tice it to pre­vent tragedy in the fu­ture.

Michael Fur­man, a 30-year fire­fight­ing vet­eran, wrote a chil­dren’s book about fire safety he hopes will help fam­i­lies pre­pare their own safety plan in case of a dis­as­ter.

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