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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Thousands Of Kids Play It Safe At Carnival

Sometimes lessons that can save lives come sandwiched between free popcorn and free railroad hats.

Thousands of children poured through Thursday’s Carnival of Safety at Valley Hospital and Medical Center. They snarfed up stickers, stamps and coloring sheets - along with reminders about day-to-day safety:

Never open a hot door. Stay away from railroad tracks. And smooth on your sun screen.

Under the shade of an awning, Michelle Fales, an employee of Home Health Care of Washington, passed packets of sun block to moms in shorts and stamped small sweaty hands with a Batman stamp. She had her one-liner for the kids down pat.

“They’re both great protectors. Batman and Robin will defend you against bad guys. And sunscreen will defend you against skin cancer.”

Volunteers from Operation Safety, a statewide program to teach safety around railroads, passed out scores of cardboard engineer’s hats. And they were all-too-informed about the dangers of crossing the tracks with a train nearby.

Nine pedestrians have died this year in Washington, struck by trains, said Gary Larsen.

A more cheerful statistic: By the end of the day, the carnival had given away more than 300 bike helmets, targeting small children whose families may not have converted to helmets yet.

With 10 years under its belt, the carnival draws children’s groups from all over Spokane. Standing in line was the norm for favorite attractions. By the end of the afternoon, the crowds had subsided, chased off by rain.

Still, two boys with white and black face paint waited for a turn in the Spokane Valley Fire Department’s fire-safety house.

Nathan Wiater, 12, was signing for his deaf friend, Craig Joseph, 11.

“It’s Nathan’s first time interpreting for Craig,” said Shirley Wiater, Nathan’s mom.

Finally inside the tiny fire-safety house, with artificial smoke pouring over six kids, Craig couldn’t even hear the smoke detector, blaring only inches away.

“Two things to remember when there’s a fire,” firefighter George Knapp told the kids. “Never open a hot door. And crawl. Just like a soldier.”

Amid the free popcorn, the stickers and the fun, did the kids really learn something?

Several adult volunteers at the event said yes; a few of them hemmed and hawed. But 12-year-old Brian Bowcutt, a member of the Naval Lead Cadets, answered it best:

“Even if they didn’t know it, they were learning things.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

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