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No language barrier

Photo courtesy Ana Placencia
Members of the Peruvian Civic Association with KFD Chief Inspector John Donovan and Firefighter Juan Barroso.

By Karen Zautyk
Observer Correspondent 


“Permanezca en la cocina mientras esta friendo o cocinando con aceite o grasa.”

Despite our high school Spanish, we do not know what that means. (And we apologize for our ignorance.) However, it is certain that more than a few Kearny residents understand it completely.

As the demographics of the town have changed, there is an increasingly bilingual aspect to the town. But for some Kearnyites, especially newcomers, Spanish is the primary language, which can  and in certain instances, that could compromise their safety.

This is why the Kearny Fire Department on the afternoon of May 5 held a comprehensive fire safety seminar for Spanish-speaking residents.

Conducted by KFD Chief Inspector John F. Donovan, assisted by Kearny Firefighter Juan Barroso and Jersey City Firefighter Wilson Carrera as translators, the program took place in the basement meeting room of St. Cecilia’s Church and drew scores of interested attendees. It was offered with the help and cooperation of the Peruvian Civic Association and the Rev. John E. Wassell, pastor of the church.

Photo courtesy of Ana Placencia Top: Scene at first, but not last, fire safety seminar conducted in Spanish.

Photo courtesy of Ana Placencia
Top: Scene at first, but not last, fire safety seminar conducted in Spanish.


In announcing the program, Donovan noted, “This is a first-time effort on behalf of the KFD Bureau of Combustibles to reach out to what we feel is an under-served part of our community due to the language barrier.”

Donovan was pleased with the turnout and the interest and enthusiasm of those who attended, and he assured the Spanish-speaking community that there will be additional seminars planned.

“The first time will not be the last,” he said. “We can always build on this.”

Besides, he noted, “You can’t cover every aspect of fire safety in one hour-long program.”

Certainly not. But the KFD offered a pretty comprehensive hour. The topics covered included kitchen-fire dangers and safety tips, BBQ safety, smoke detector placement, replacement and use, carbon monoxide detectors, and how to draw up (and conduct drills for) a home fire escape plan for your family.

(To all Observer readers: If you haven’t already, get such a plan and organize a home fire drill, including a central meeting place for everyone to gather when they get outdoors. That’s so you can know who is safe and who might be missing. Unless you tell them, firefighters won’t have an accurate head count. “We spend a lot of time looking for people who are already outside,” Donovan commented.)

In addition to the information offered verbally, fire-safety literature in Spanish was distributed, as were 50 free DVDs. One of the videos focused on fire safety for children; the second title was for senior citizens and others with limited mobility, hearing or vision problems.

Photo courtesy of Ana Placencia Informational literature, smoke alarms and DVDs were distributed.

Photo courtesy of Ana Placencia
Informational literature, smoke alarms and DVDs were distributed.



The Bureau of Combustibles also gave out about three dozen free smoke detectors and 50 replacement batteries.

Afterwards, Donovan spoke to the audience about what they’d like to see covered in subsequent seminars. Additional information on candle safety was one request, along with more topics for children and a demonstration on how to use a fire extinguisher.

Ana Placencia, president of Peruvian Civic Association, helped get the first seminar organized. “When I meet with Ana again,” Donovan said, “I can learn more about what they need and help them learn what they need to know.”

“They’re asking for more programs,” he said, “so I’d like to continue.”

The next seminar is tentatively scheduled for November, prior to the ever-fire- hazardous holiday season. Details will be announced when a date and place have been set.

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