LAWRENCE — As a father of two boys, Firefighter Ignacio Rodriguez recognizes that children are being bombarded with information about the severity of the coronavirus pandemic all day, everyday.
"Right now, especially being a kid, you can't listen to the radio or TV or be on the internet without hearing about all the bad things happening," Rodriguez said.
So Rodriguez, 28, decided he and his fellow Group 2 firefighters at the Lawrence Fire Department could do something positive.
From vistas throughout the firehouse, Rodriguez and his co-workers created a video where they read the children's story "No Dragons For Tea" by Jean Pendziwol.
"No Dragons For Tea" is the story of a young girl who meets a fire-breathing dragon and invites him to her house for tea. But during the visit, the dragon sneezes and flames shoot from his mouth and nose.
Firefighters take turns reading the pages, all the while wearing protective gloves, sitting in and on top of firetrucks, standing next to the deputy chief's SUV, inside the deputy chief's car and elsewhere.
"We thought it would be awesome for the kids to see us in our own environment," said Rodriguez, a Lawrence native going into his fifth year as a city firefighter.
The video, at a little more than five minutes in length, also includes music Rodriguez created himself.
"I just made a random melody," he said.
The book, he said, strikes a balance between entertaining children and also teaching them a valuable lesson about fire safety.
He previously read the story to his 10-year-old son's class and has also used the book during public safety education visits.
"You never go back in for your toys. You can replace toys but you can't replace you," said Rodriguez, echoing one of the book's themes.
"It teaches fire safety in a friendly way," he noted.
Rodriguez thanks Capt. Matt Nadeau, who initially encouraged him to produce the video and include others in Group 2, one of four working groups of Lawrence firefighters.
He said he hopes children enjoy the video, but also realize the firehouse is "also their house."
"We want the community to feel like this is their firehouse and they can stop by anytime. We want them too," he said.
Rodriguez said the best days at work are the ones when youngsters stop by to visit and learn.
"It's everyone's house. It's a public building," he said.
Do you know a "Hometown Hero?" Send your ideas to staff reporter Jill Harmacinski at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (978) 946-2209.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.
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