News>Feature - Behind the spots: Sparky the fire dog
Sparky the fire dog was at the Landings Club Nov. 15 to entertain children before they were bussed over to a C-5B Galaxy on the flight line to have their picture taken with Santa. The pictures with Santa were one of many programs Team Dover is highlighting during the Year of the Air Force Family. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Chad Padgett)
Sparky, a mascot with the 436th Civil Engineer Squadron talks to kids at the FanZone Oct. 1, 2011, prior to the OneMain Financial 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Del. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)
by Airman 1st Class Kathryn Stilwell
436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
10/16/2012 - DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. --
Dalmatians have been associated with firemen since the days where they dutifully trotted beside horse-drawn fire engines. Today they can be spotted sitting tall on fire engines during parades, employed as learning tools for children, and even utilized as a mascot by having someone dress in furry garb. The 436th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department at Dover Air Force Base, Del., is no exception to the rule, as they make use of the National Fire Protection Association's official mascot, Sparky the fire dog, to teach younger generations about fire safety.
"We try to use him at any kind of educational setting," said Staff Sgt. Robert Russell, fire inspector with the 436th CES Fire Department. "We use him at open houses, at various school tours throughout the department, and at the main and north gate. He is very valuable to our education program."
According to the National Fire Protection Association, Sparky the fire dog has been around since 1951 and his legend is as follows:
There once lived a small Dalmatian puppy who used to sit near a fence at a school. The puppy enjoyed watching the little children of the school play outdoors. One day, the puppy decided to follow two of the children to their home. Tired from the trot, the puppy lay near a tree to rest his weary feet. Upon awakening, the shocked little puppy realized that the children's home was on fire. The puppy scampered to the local fire station to warn the firemen. The firemen heard the puppy's plea for help and rushed to the fire scene to douse the flames. When the raging fire was finally extinguished, the firemen noticed the poor little worried Dalmatian shivering under a tree.
The firefighters took the Dalmatian and brought him to the children's family, in hopes that he could cheer them up. Once there, the firefighters informed the family that the dog had ran all the way to the fire station to inform the firefighters of the raging fire. The firefighters realized that the dog was a heroic anti-fire dog. Thus, the firefighters called the Dalmatian "Sparky the fire dog", and Sparky found a new home at the fire station from then on.
Sparky has been with the base fire department for approximately 20 years to teach children valuable methods of fire prevention and reaction. He educates the public about fire hazards and precautionary safety measures such as properly-working smoke alarms.
We use him as a tool to help spread our message of fire prevention and education along with the training, said Russell. Young children can seem frightened of firefighters when wearing their [bunker gear] but when they see Sparky in his gear, they can see that we're there to help and not there to be scary -- that we're there to do good.
Sparky plays a vital role in the mission of Team Dover Fire Department by softening the potentially-daunting exterior of a firefighter, and teaching children the basics of fire prevention.