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New UW Health, Fitchburg fire partnership focuses on kids’ safety

FITCHBURG (WKOW) — For the first time in Wisconsin, health officials and firefighters will be under one roof to bring safety education to the community.

UW Health’s Safe Kids program is moving in with Fitchburg Fire Department.

The fire station has a lot more room at its original location now, after moving trucks over to a new spot in August. Station 1 is mostly empty, except for administrative offices.

The groups will now work together to host community events, offering a place where families can have easier access to educational trainings.

“[Safe Kids has] the potential of introducing us and our community to programs that we never knew existed,” said Fire Chief Joe Pulvermacher. “There’s plenty of opportunity for expansion in this space. I don’t think we’ve yet realized the greater impact that will be made by having this partnership. I’m very optimistic about all the things that can be presented to the city of Fitchburg.”

The main goal is to keep kids out of the hospital. Health officials say one in ten children are hurt every year. Falls are the number one reason for emergency room visits for kids of all ages. The second most common is being struck by an object.

Statistics from UW Health show the top five injury-related hospitalizations for 2012 to 2014 also include fires and crashes, so teaming up with firefighters can help health officials learn more about how to better teach the community how to stay safe.

“They’re able to educate families on best practice recommendations so we can keep kids safe and out of the hospital,” said Rishelle Eithun, program manager for injury prevention at UW Health. “Eventually, with the space in Fitchburg, we would like to offer more educational space, more safety products at classes for families so that we can help do a better job keeping our kids out of the hospital.”

Eithun says a safety center at American Family Children’s Hospital is popular right now, offering trainings and courses, and a place where families can buy safety products. But, it’s not as easily accessible as fire station.

“We can be more in the community, we have more access to where our community needs,” she said.

Pulvermacher hopes bringing more people through the station might even help with recruitment in the long run.

“One of the things that that we are actively working on right now is how we best reflect the population that we serve and trying to get people in the door that have an interest in providing a service to their community,” he told 27 News.

The converted building will also be used as a polling place and an emergency operations center, once construction is finished.

Jennifer Kliese

Weekend Anchor and Reporter, 27 News

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