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Beyond the blaze
Barrow coalition honored for child-focused program

WINDER - The aftereffects of house fires usually burn longer than embers.

That's especially true in the case of children, who can be deeply impacted by even non-fatal blazes, said Barrow County Fire and Emergency Services officials.

That notion has earned the department recognition from high places lately.

The International Association of Fire Chiefs last month recognized the department as an Award for Excellence finalist for a youth-focused program leaders have put on for three years called "Children After the Fire."

The program is designed to help children deal with the physical and emotional effects associated with fire, which can be severe enough to include variations of post traumatic stress disorder, Fire Department spokesman Lt. Scot Dakin said.

Fire Department Chief Robert Post announced the award at a Barrow County Board of Commissioners meeting last month.

"Barrow County should be proud of this program and the people that operate it," Post said. "It's helped many of our children, and will continue to help for years to come."

Children After the Fire counseling is offered at no cost to families affected by fire. Other facets of the program included lighthearted safety lessons and a shop-with-a-firefighter event that replaces toys and items lost in fires.

The Children After the Fire Coalition, now in its third year, is comprised of myriad fire personnel, police, school officials and American Red Cross representatives from throughout Barrow County. Leaders plan to train other departments in metro Atlanta as the program blossoms.

More than 30 children have either started or completed the program to date.

"(We're) excited about the possibilities of this program and the expansion of it," Dakin said. "When a child is affected by a fire, we want to help them deal with all the effects, and to get back to living a normal life."