Lentas Kids say “No” to Wildfires

If you’re going to be in the Lentas area of southern Crete this summer, you can’t miss seeing the new, brightly-painted fire safety signs along the coastal road from Lentas to a bit beyond Tzigounas. There are 15 of them with messages like, “No fire!” “Think Before You Throw” and “Be Careful with Cigarettes.” 

Local children and teenagers created and made the signs to send a message: protect the beautiful place we live in, especially during our hot, dry summers. All of the children know that one careless action (like tossing a burning cigarette or match out of a car window) can lead to a dangerous wildfire. Their signs are designed to remind all of us to be careful with fire and raise our awareness about this problem that can destroy homes, businesses, land – and lives.

The “Fire Safety” project took place at the end of the school year within the framework of privately sponsored English classes in Lentas for area children and teens. The children’s teacher, Gina Kraft, first introduced the topic of wildfires by using objects and pictures to help teach the necessary vocabulary words to the younger children.

Jonas (5), Odysseus (7) Fiona (8), Irene (6) Eliza (9) Maria (9), Maria (9), Jasonos (8) and Odysseus (12) only started having English lessons last December. The other children, Elias (11), Themes (11),  Maria (14) Anja (16), Elli (almost 18) and Irene (18) are already very good in English and helped the teacher explain things to the younger kids. “The children were all very enthusiastic about this topic,” explained Mrs. Kraft. “They’ve all seen wildfires - last summer there were three quite large ones in our area.” After discussing how fires start and what to do if one happens, each child decided on a slogan and painted a picture to help their message “hit home.” Their work speaks for itself – and the children want local residents and visitors to listen to it.

The project was co-sponsored by the Association of Volunteer Firemen and Environmental Protection of Asterousia and the Project Pame e.V. English courses. Costs were kept low because a local carpenter donated the necessary wood and the Volunteer Firemen’s Association paid for the paint. 

Mrs. Kraft explained that the idea for putting up fire safety and awareness signs first came up a couple of years ago during a meeting of the volunteer fire association. “At first, we wanted to have a ‘real’ artist make signs that were all the same. But then after the English courses began last year, I thought it would be a great project for the children. I think this way, the signs have more impact. After all, each one is different and reflects its creator’s personality. I also think it’s wonderful that the children had the chance to do something positive for their community – and perhaps teach the grown-ups something very important, as well.”

The messages on the signs are in Greek and English. Mrs. Kraft smiles when asked about the odd spelling mistake, like “creful” instead of “careful.” “Well, I decided not to correct the mistakes, because personally, I think they add to the charm of the signs - and making mistakes is a part of the language learning process.”  

What the children and their teacher hope to achieve with the signs though, is that people stop making the mistake of being careless with fire. “Let’s face it,” adds Mrs. Kraft, “Most wildfires are started by human carelessness. Everybody knows that cigarette butts belong in ashtrays, not on the side of the road, that it is a really bad idea to burn rubbish or fields on dry, summer days, that we should keep the areas around our homes clear of dry grass, take special care when using machines outside (sparks!) and so on and so on. Unfortunately, not everyone sticks to these very simple precautions.”

The children’s signs are a vivid and eye-catching reminder to everyone who sees them NOT to be the next person that starts a dangerous wildfire.

Thank you, children from Lentas, Papadoyiannis, Diskos, Gerokampos and Tzigounas!