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March 12, 2005

The last time firefighters went to this neighborhood on North 84th Lane, they were trying to revive two sisters who had been found floating in a backyard swimming pool.

Friday, two days after the near-drowning tragedy, they returned again trying to save even more lives. This time, Valley firefighters went door-to-door in the west Phoenix community, passing out water-safety information: videotapes on how to perform CPR; door hangers with pool safety tips; pamphlets about pool fences.

"It's very important to remind people of the basic things in life about safety," said Rick Simoniello, who is testing to join the Phoenix Fire Department. "We all become complacent. Sometimes it's a good reminder to be aware of their surroundings." The sisters, Grace, 2, and Jewell Dano, 15 months, remained on life support Friday at a Phoenix hospital. Officials say they had been underwater for more than 10 minutes Wednesday.

"Too many kids drown every year. It's ridiculous," Mitchell Ward said after firefighters handed him information. "This may do some good. I hope it does. ... They need to do something."

Ward, who has two young grandchildren, said he didn't have a pool and never would. "Kids are so much smarter than we were when we were coming up," Ward said. "I don't want to take a chance."

Still, Ward took the information to pass along to others who do have pools. Firefighters said they hope their efforts will get the community talking about water safety and prevent more tragedies.

Last year, 19 children drowned in Maricopa County.

"I think a lot of people don't realize their little 2-year-old kid could walk outside and fall into the pool," said Wendy Vazquez, 16, who answered her door to firefighters. "They should do this more often."

About 50 firefighters from Phoenix, Glendale, Tolleson and the Valley Hispanic Bomberos organization volunteered their time Friday to distribute water-safety information in the area bounded by Indian School and Osborn roads and 83rd and 86th avenues.

Firefighters usually go door-to-door in June in neighborhoods with high concentrations of drownings. In the past, their presence has virtually eliminated drownings in the areas they have targeted.

"Strategically, this is the best way for us to get to this community," said Phoenix Assistant Fire Chief Bob Khan. "I don't think there's anything more powerful collectively than getting a group of firefighters together and going door-to-door."

Firefighters left information on the doors of people who weren't home.

Marsha Thomas said she has four children and a pool that is fenced and double-locked. Still, she said many people simply don't understand how to get the barriers they need or don't believe drownings can happen to their kids, too.

"They're here today, and they're gifts to you," Thomas said. "You're not guaranteed to keep them unless you take care of them."

Meanwhile, the family of two boys who drowned in 2000 will hold a carwash today to raise money for the Dano girls. They were touched by others' generosity when Austin Davis, 4, and Logan Mestas, 2, drowned.

"People we didn't know did that for us," said Andrew Mestas, their uncle. The carwash will be 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Jiffy Lube, 7740 W. Indian School Road.

Safe-pool rules

* Never leave your child alone or out of sight near the pool.
* Children under 3 should be kept within arm's reach of an adult while in or near the pool.
* Keep a phone poolside so you won't have to leave children unsupervised to make or answer an urgent call.
* Always use approved personal-flotation devices, rather than inflatable toys, to keep your child afloat.
* Do not consider young children to be "drownproof" because they have had swimming lessons.
* Remove toys from in and around the pool when you're not using them. Toys can attract young children to the pool.
* If you own a pool, insist all adults in your family learn CPR. To get more information about learning CPR, call the Phoenix Fire Department at (602) 262-6910, or the United Phoenix Firefighters Association at (602) 277-1500.

Pool fences
Free pool fences are available through the United Phoenix Firefighters Association. Last year, the group gave away 80 fences. The group is also looking for corporate sponsors to help fund fence giveaways. Call (602) 277-1500 to donate or get help. Phoenix Fire Department

Reproduced with permission from:
The Arizona Republic
By Judi Villa
Copyright 2005 Arizona Republic

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