Madelyn Chawrun spends five days a week studying at Morden's Maple Leaf Elementary school.

On Monday afternoon, the Grade 1 student took charge of Morden Fire and Rescue as the winner of the department's Fire Chief of the Day contest. 

"Madelyn was really excited when we arrived at the school," said Jonathan Baumgart, the department's Fire Captain and Public Education officer. 

Later in the day, neighbours were caught by surprise when firetrucks rolled up to the Chawrun home, lights flashing and sirens blaring, to pick up the family for a celebratory dinner at Boston Pizza. 

It was all part of Morden Fire and Rescue's "Traveling Sparky" fire prevention program offered through the Office of The Fire Commissioner. 

"The program includes a backpack and a stuffy Dalmatian dog, which is Sparky, the mascot for the fire service," explained Baumgart. "The child takes his backpack home from school, and Sparky spends the night at their place. But in order for Sparky to spend the night, they need to make sure that the house is fire safe. They push the initiative to create a Home Fire Escape Plan. Then in turn the child brings the Home Fire Escape Plan back to school and that's their ballot to the contest to be entered into win the opportunity to be the Fire Chief of the Day."

Madelyn is the first female winner in the history of the event. She joined her Grade 1 classmates for an afternoon watching firefighter races, exploring fire truck tours and trying on firefighting gear.

"We concluded the afternoon at the school shooting the fire hose and knocking over targets," said Baumgart. "From there, we took our Fire Chief Madelyn from school and the fire truck back to the Fire hall. She received a tour at the Fire Hall, got to see all the trucks, all the equipment. She had opportunity to roll hose and refill the truck with the water after we sprayed it at the school. Then at about 5:00 pm we gathered up Madelyn back in the fire truck, went to her place to pick up her family, and went to Boston Pizza to celebrate the event with the pizza party."

Baumgart admits that everybody likes the glamour of actual firefighting but points out that it's fire prevention that's really big.

"It's not so glamorous, but it's it's a job that needs to be done and needs to be pushed. Seeing this group that I met with [on Monday] - this was the fourth time I've been with them - just hearing them reiterate back the information that I gave them in October was really cool. That kind of gives me a sense of pride, that, yep, you know what the message is getting out there, they're remembering the message and then pushing that message at home to the family and the parents."

Baumgart remembers the program from his elementary school days. After loosing sponsorship it was shut down for seventeen years until the fire captain brought it back to Morden in 2018.

He points to the willing participation of teachers and Boston Pizza's sponsorship as major contributors to the program's success. 

With files from Daemon Parent