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Sandy Twp. firefighters visit DuBois Central Catholic for Fire Prevention Week

DuBOIS — Sandy Township volunteer firefighter Zack Priddy put on his protective gear while meeting with students at DuBois Central Catholic on Wednesday to talk about fire safety and prevention.

Firefighter Eric Tinker held up a fire alarm and asked the students if they knew what it was. They all nodded yes.

“So what do you do at your house when that sound goes off?”

“You get out!” one student shouted.

“When you get out of your house during a fire, do you ever go back inside?” Tinker said.

The students all said in unison, “No!”

“When you go home today, I want you to talk to your parents about smoke detectors,” Tinker said. “You should have one on every level, inside and outside of every room. And I want you to ask your parents to show you where all the smoke detectors are.”

He urged the children to talk about a meeting place with their parents if they don’t already have one.

“Do you know why it’s important to have a meeting place?” Tinker said. “It’s so everybody can get there safely, so when we show up we know if there’s anybody still inside or not. If everybody’s in one spot, we know nobody’s still in the house and we don’t have to worry about trying to go in and save somebody. If we don’t know if you’re in there or not, we’re going to come in and try looking for you.”

Tinker also told the children that if they are inside their house and cannot get out, not to hide under a bed or in a closet.

“We need to be able to find you easily,” Tinker said.

Next, Priddy donned all of his gear and showed the students what it looks like whenever he’s coming to their house to try to find them in case of a fire.

“Big heavy boots and pants keep his legs and his clothes from burning... like a big pair of snow pants,” Tanker said.

He also asked the students if they knew about “Stop, Drop and Roll.”

“If your clothes are on fire, what’s the first thing you do?”

The students replied, “Stop, Drop and Roll.”

When Priddy was done putting on his gear, Tinker pointed out the air tank on his back.

“That’s so you can breathe whenever you go inside of a fire. It gives you nice, clean air. He wears it all in a backpack,” Tinker said. “There’s nothing to be afraid of. He might not look like what we do right now, but once he gets all that on, it’s so he’s completely protected.”

“If you ever see him coming into your room or into your house looking for somebody, you need to reach out, yell for him. Grab him. Get his attention, because it’s real hard to see whenever we’re inside a fire. We got to be able to rely on feel and on sound,” Tinker said.

The students were most excited when they got to go outside and see the firetruck to conclude the event.

Other firefighters in attendance were Brian Hubbard, Chris Runyon and Mark Siple. Fire Prevention Week kicked off Sunday and continues through Saturday.


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'THOSE DIRTY FIRE BOOTS:' Woman keeps son's name, flame alive through children's book

A Clearfield County native has written a children’s book to keep the flame of her son’s memory alive and burning.

Debbie Michuck created “Those Dirty Fire Boots” in honor of her son, Ryan Flegal. The book was recently published by Covenant Books.

Ryan, a Clearfield Area High School graduate, was a wildfire fighter out west for nine years, where he enjoyed the rush of battling the blaze and protecting the community. In 2012, he committed suicide, tragically leaving his legacy and story behind.

The book is told through the eyes of Ryan’s nephew, CJ, and gives a view of how he saw his Uncle Ryan, and how children look up to firefighters in general.

Throughout the 26-page publication, CJ and his sister, Josie, talk about their visits and interactions with Uncle Ryan. They idolize him, saying, “You have to be in tip-top shape to be a wildland firefighter,” and describes his clothes as having a “faint smell of burning wood that I have grown to love.”

Ryan always loved the outdoors, and had a Penn State University degree in Forest Technology, Michuck said. He pursued his firefighting dream in 2001 in Utah, and went on to be a trained smoke jumper and acquired other skills in the line of danger.

He endured seasonal depression, since wildfire fighting occurs only for about six months of the year, Michuck said. When he wasn’t experiencing the adrenaline rush, he had a hard time, she said.

“He was always full of laughter and life,” she said. “But, like so many of us, he suffered from depression, and that was a fire he couldn’t tame.”

After Ryan’s death, Michuck started her own blog, “Flames for Flegality,” which, she said, helped her realize how therapeutic writing can be.

Because the topic is so near and dear to her heart, it didn’t take long to write the book itself, Michuck said. She had always told Ryan to write a children’s book about fighting wildfires, so, she decided to write one herself in his memory.

“He was always so good with kids,” she said. “And they always say to write about what you know.”

She also wanted to write in a way that showed children the bravery of everyday heroes, Michuck said. There aren’t many books written specifically on wildland fighters, which she hopes makes this one unique.

All of the book proceeds go to the Ryan T. Flegal Memorial Foundation, through the Central Pennsylvania Community Foundation in Altoona. Funds will go to benefit charitable causes, such as the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, suicide prevention and awareness, and scholarships for high school seniors going to college.

“All we have now is memories,” she said. “If I can keep his name alive and help charitable causes, then that’s great.”

She has done many things to honor the memory of her son. Ryan had more than one firemen-related tattoo, Michuck said, which was one of the things that inspired her to get his signature and fire symbol tattooed on her wrist.

Since her loss, Michuck has also read many books on suicide, and is involved in suicide prevention groups and counseling efforts locally, aiming to be a shoulder for people to lean on who may be experiencing what Ryan did. At some point, she also wants to write a journal, about a parent’s struggle after losing a child to suicide.

Michuck attributes much of her strength and attitude to being a Christian, she said. Her goal is to use Ryan’s legacy to help others.

“I want people to know that at 65 years old, you can still live a dream,” she said. “I’ve been through the worst nightmare of a parent’s life. I would want him back in a second, but you can’t change it. You can still go on and find joy in life again.”

Michuck will have a book signing at Barnes & Noble in State College on Oct. 27 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and she will also be attending book signings out west in “fire country,” among old friends of Ryan’s.

The book is available in hardback, paperback, and E-book through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kindle. “Those Dirty Fire Boots” also has its own Facebook page.


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DuBois firefighters talk to children about fire safety

DuBOIS — In observance of Fire Prevention Week, members of the DuBois Volunteer Fire Department have been visiting day care centers and schools in the city.

While their big, red fire truck is parked outside, firefighters have been educating the youngsters about the importance of fire safety. The kids learned safety awareness tips and got an up-close-and-personal look at the fire truck.

Fire Chief Ben Blakley, along with firefighters Rick Johnson, Ryan Hultman and Matt Lindholm, checked a local day care center’s fire alarm on Tuesday and explained to the children what to do if a fire alarm sounds. The children raised their hands when Blakley asked if they all have fire alarms in their homes.

“They are very important,” Blakley said.

He told the children to tell their moms and dads that they want to have a fire drill at their home.

“You all should meet in one spot outside of the home if there is a fire,” Blakley said.

The children also simulated crawling under a fire while the firefighters held a blanket low to the floor.

When asked what they should do if their clothes catch on fire, many of the children knew that they should, “stop, drop and roll.” Then each one of them showed the firefighters just how that is done.

Blakley told the children that they should always sleep with their bedroom door closed so that, in the case of a fire, the smoke and fire won’t come into their room.

“Don’t ever hide during a fire,” said Blakley, noting that firefighters won’t be able to find you if you are hidden and there is a fire.

“The best place to go is by a window because firefighters will be coming in through a window,” Blakley said.

The visits the firefighters have been making throughout the week are to help promote the most important facets of fire safety awareness to kids.

The Sandy Township Volunteer Fire Department has also been visiting schools and day care centers in their area to teach fire prevention.

Blakley said the fire department will also tour downtown buildings on Friday to stay familiar with the layouts and any changes to them.

Also on Friday, the Downtown DuBois Revitalization Group will hold a Fire Prevention Downtown Block Party, featuring Nick Forsyth, from 5-8 p.m. on West Long Avenue from Jared to Franklin streets.

There will be fire truck rides, free giveaways, food and family fun, according to the DDRG organizers.


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Cannabis dispensary ribbon cutting Monday in DuBois

Grassroots Cannabis, an Illinois-based medical cannabis company with licensed business operations in six states, announced yesterday that the company will open a new Herbology medical cannabis dispensary in DuBois.

Grassroots Cannabis is the largest medical cannabis provider in Illinois and one of the largest multi-state cannabis companies in the nation. The company’s Herbology medical cannabis dispensaries serve patients with cannabis products, including flower, ingestible and topicals, cannabidiol (CBD) products, concentrates, oil vape cartridges and disposable vape pens.

A public ribbon cutting ceremony Monday at 3:30 p.m. will celebrate the grand opening of the new dispensary in DuBois. The location, 1222 South Brady, will be the second Herbology location in Pennsylvania and the fourth Herbology location nationwide. Its hours of operation will be from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

A spokesman said the company is locating in Pennsylvania because it is the fifth-largest state in the country with a population of nearly 13 million people and thus promises to be one of the country’s biggest medical cannabis markets.