Firefighters return to scene of fire for Kalaheo School career day

KALAHEO — Earlier this week, Shawn Thompson made his first trip back to Kalaheo School in 10 months.

The last time he arrived, the school was on fire.

Thompson is a firefighter with Kaua‘i Fire Department’s Kalaheo fire station and one of three firefighters from that station who attended the school’s Career Day events this week. The three were also on duty when a fire of suspicious origins gutted the administration building and some classrooms in May of last year, organizers said.

“This is the first time they’ve seen the school since the fire,” said Robyn Herbig, Career Day coordinator.

Career Day presenters arrived with tools of their trade and, in many cases, treated students to hands-on participation, as did Thompson, who administered a quiz to his fifth-grade audience.

The “winners” of the quiz following his presentation were allowed to take an agility test that involved the students donning fire equipment as if in response to an alarm.

But that was not the end, as the students had to run the length of the room, touch the far wall, run back, and attach two hose couplings, run back to the wall and return, before unhooking the couplings.

Finally, each agility-test participant wrapped up the exercise with pushups, each phase getting members of the remainder of the class amused with the antics of students trying to run (waddle?) in full fire gear.

“I’ve been doing business here for about 20 years, and I think I’ve been doing Career Days for that long, too,” commented Dr. Craig Nishimoto during a break.

Nishimoto, a veterinarian from Paradise Animal Clinic in Kalaheo, was one of 22 career presenters who converged at Kalaheo School despite the morning rains.

The 22 presenters, some of whom had assistants to help with their presentations, were divided up among the school’s kindergarten through fifth grades, with the students rotating through the various classrooms.

“I had my wife Chieko act as my assistant,” chuckled Executive Sous Chef Ed Mizuno of the Sheraton Kauai Resort, as he watched members of his second-grade audience troop out of his presentation that was garnished with samples of sushi and a light Japanese dessert.

Some of the more impressionable tools of the trade included Tevi, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources police dog, who worked tirelessly throughout the morning, putting on a special demonstration for the second graders.

Others included the pumper truck from the Kalaheo fire station; and the Medic 20 ambulance from American Medical Response, whose paramedics Richard Lavens and Lisa Kay capped their presentation by passing out samples of PAWS, a waterless, bacterial hand cleaner.

A lift truck from Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative rounded out the big rigs on campus.

Keith Burgess, the athletic trainer for Kaua‘i High School, had fourth-graders for his audience.

“He taught us how to tape a broken finger,” said student Justin Doi. “And he taught us how to use the bungi thingie for exercising.”

Burgess said he had done the Eleele School Career Day earlier, and this was his second one this year.

Nurse anesthetist Karen Young involved members of her fifth-grade audience by hooking up one of the students to a monitoring instrument and, aside from the video that helped in her presentation, had a life-sized model where students could practice some of the cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) moves.

However, not all students were classroom audience members, as eight students in the school’s gifted-and-talented English class were tasked with “covering” the event for a class assignment.

The eight students were spread out into three teams, with a roving photographer to meet up with members of the writing teams to canvass the school event in a unique, hands-on approach to the on-campus happenings.

During the break for presenters, Herbig noted that, due to the success with the students in their various arenas, she was considering creating media badges for the student reporters and photographer for when school officials host Career Day next year.

La‘akea Warren, a fifth-grader, was the roving photographer who went out armed with two digital cameras, and quickly discovered that trying to take pictures and lug around a clipboard can be a cumbersome task.

“He’s normally a shy boy,” Warren’s mother said when she found out that he had no problem entering the various classes and getting photos of the presenters in action.

Emma Sloan and Noelani Murray, fifth-graders, made up the Puffball team. Jaclyn Ishimura and Monique Miner made up the Flower Patch squad. McKenna Lewis, Kalena Wong, and Marissa Ruiz rounded out the student coverage as the Pink Panthers.

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