Fireman Joe Talks with Kids (and Us) about Fire Safety at Home

By Bill Primavera

The Home Guru

When my daughter was a young child, I’m not so sure that I had planned a conscious fire safety program for our home, and I am now appalled by the thought. But, who knows? Maybe she knew more than I did about fire safety in the home if there was someone like “Fireman Joe” Pascarelli around to educate children in her school.

I had known Joe for a while, not as an educator but as a great house painter. He and his crew are very conscientious about their work, to the point of re-making a bed after moving it in and out of a bedroom when painting for one of my senior clients.

Only recently did I learn that Joe’s past includes having been a fireman in Mt. Vernon. He is now retired, but not before having had a traumatic experience that pointed him in the direction of educating children about fire safety. 

“I responded to a fire where a mother was in front of the home screaming that her child was still inside. She pleaded with me to save her baby, but sadly, I was there too late.”  That heart wrenching event was responsible for Joe having to “talk to somebody” for a while. “I decided to deal with it by reaching out to as many children as I could to tell them about how to save themselves and other family members if a fire breaks out in their homes.”

For more than 20 years, Joe has taken his “Fireman Joe” persona in full fireman gear to several elementary schools in the region. “Children should know what a fireman looks like on the job in their helmet and air mask so they won’t be afraid if one ever has to come to save them.”

In a large auditorium at the Van Cortlandtville Elementary School in Cortlandt, filled with first and second  graders, Joe began his presentation with the sound of a smoke alarm saying, “This sound can save lives.” He followed with a number of questions, the answers of which many second graders remembered from last year’s presentation.

They are reminded by Joe of what to do if they hear the smoke alarm in real life:  To get out of the house fast; to never hide from a fire under a bed or in a closet; and never stop to get pets or toys. In advance, they plan with their families a fire escape plan with two ways out of every room, usually a door and a window.  Also, they make sure that their bedroom door is closed at night when they are tucked in.

If there is smoke in the home, they are taught to crawl low under it, as Joe demonstrates in full gear. He also teaches them to “stop, drop and roll” if their clothes catch on fire, and to cover their faces with their hands for protection.

For adults, besides having smoke alarms on each floor and preferably one in each bedroom,fire safety tips for homes are provided by the Home Safety Council.

Top tips include: When cooking, always stay in the kitchen, and anything that can burn should be kept three feet from the range top; in providing heat, space heaters should be kept at least three feet away from anything that would burn and should be turned off when leaving the room; gasoline should not be kept in the home because its vapors can explode with a tiny spark but,  if it must be kept, a special safety container should be used and preferably kept in an outside shed. 

Also the Council suggests that we all learn how and when to use a fire extinguisher.  My own suggestion for those of us who sleep on the second floor of our homes:  invest in emergency escape ladders which can be found at:

The U. S. Consumer Department Safety Commission, whose job it is to research and investigate the causes and prevention of product-related deaths and administers fire safety laws, reports that the United States has one of the highest fire death and injury rates in the world, with more than 4,000 people dying each year in home fires. 

Whether for adults or children, the main ingredient of fire safety is education. “I’ve been talking to kids in school for a long time now,” Joe Pascarelli said, “and I know that one of my kids was responsible for saving his family from a house fire because of what he learned from me.”

Bill Primavera is a licensed Realtor® (, affiliated with Coldwell Banker, and a marketing practitioner ( For questions or comments about the housing market, or selling or buying a home, he can be reached directly at 914-522-2076.