Spokane Valley Firefighter Teaches Cooped-Up Kids (And Parents) About Fire

Apr 30, 2020

Firefighter Rick Freier has been teaching lessons about fire and chemistry this month to students stuck at home.
Credit Spokane Valley Fire Department

A Spokane Valley firefighter has channeled his inner teacher during this coronavirus outbreak. For the last month, Rick Freier has taught Friday lessons about fire and firefighting to school children who are quarantined at home. Tomorrow [Friday] is his final tutorial.

For several years, Rick Freier has been involved in teaching middle school students about fire and what it’s like to be a firefighter. Covid-19 interrupted his classroom teaching, but one day he got an offer he couldn’t refuse.

“The administration came up to me and asked if I wanted to do a Fire Science Friday, an episode. And I said, let’s do it one better. Let’s do a five-part series," he said.

Freier’s series airs Friday mornings at 10 on the Spokane Valley Fire Department’s Facebook page.

“First episode, we talked about what fire is, what it needed," he said in last week's video. "We talked about fuels and we talked about heat. Now, we’re hear to talk about oxygen. So, today we’ve got some stuff set up for you.”

His lessons are hands on. Last week, he lit two candles and placed one of them in an empty aquarium into which he’d pumped oxygen. That candle burned hotter than the candle sitting on the table.

“You know the flame doesn’t look all that much bigger, but it is certainly hotter because of that brighter light. It actually hurts to stare at it a little bit," he says in one of his videos. "Pretty cool stuff, right? That’s science right there, right? Understanding oxygen and how it affects fire is absolutely critical.”

Freier is a fire investigator. He says he used to arrest kids of the age he’s teaching now for lighting fires in inappropriate places.

“My biggest fear is I’m going to tell them something that they didn’t know and they’ll go home and try it. This science class that I’m teaching on the Internet is the same thing. I’m a little nervous," Freier said.

A few years ago he surveyed the students he was teaching.

“How many of you have played with matches? How many of you have played with lighters? How many of you have lit a liquid on fire for the fun of it? How many of you have played with fire with someone else?" Freier asks. "I found out that by the time they hit the sixth grade, they’re all aware that, and they tell me in the class I’m teaching, that if you take a can of hair spray and spray it and introduce a lighter, that it makes a fire ball.”

Better to fill in their knowledge gaps, he says, and hope that will help reduce the risk of something destructive happening.

Many students watch his lessons at home with their parents, who leave messages that indicate they learn from the videos as well.

Freier laughs when he hears that. "You know, it doesn’t surprise me. By the way, what I teach at the fire investigation class to firefighters that are becoming investigators, is the same thing I’m teaching now. It’s all sixth grade, seventh grade science.”

“Oxygen is important," Freier teaches in the video. " The reason why we close our doors is to save that oxygen for us and not to give it to the fire. So make sure you sleep with the door closed. Make sure your smoke detectors work. Make sure you have an escape plan. You’re at home. You’re not at school. You should do something. Accomplish one thing every day. Today, test your smoke detectors. Tomorrow, go over your escape plan.”

Friday’s episode is the last in the five-part series. It and other instructional videos for students will be archived on the Spokane Valley Fire Department’s Facebook page.