COVINGTON, Ga. — Newton County Fire Service firefighters were out in full force at Livingston Elementary School on Friday, Nov. 5, to welcome their newest firefighter. The firefighters watched as Fire Chief Michael Conner, officially presented third grader, Reniya Ritter, with a badge and certificate making her an honorary firefighter, in light of her heroic actions that saved her family from a recent house fire. Reniya knew what to do in the event of a fire after attending a lesson at school taught by Newton County Fire Safety Specialist, James Franklin.“I learned how to get out of a house or a truck when there’s smoke in there and I learned how to be a good firefighter,” said Reniya.
That’s exactly the information Franklin hoped Reniya, and her classmates, would take away from his fire safety presentation, which is geared for younger elementary-aged children.
“We taught over a 2-day period,” Franklin explained. “We watched a video that kind of taught them what to do in the event of a fire and then we talked about matches and lighters and the importance of not playing with them.”
He added, “We talked about the importance of having working smoke alarms in the house. And then we moved to the back of our trailer, where we can actually practice what we’ve learned. We fill up the room full of smoke and have the children practice crawling outside to a meeting place. We teach them to go home and ask their parents, ‘Where would we meet if there was a fire?’”
Reniya was very excited about the firefighters’ visit and eager to share with her mother, Nikia Ritter, the lessons she learned that day.
“When she got home, she explained to me that the fire department came to her school…,” said Mrs. Ritter. “She went over the drill even climbing on her knees to show how to get out of the house…. She also talked about sparkles that you might see in a fire.”
Reniya had in fact learned to report any colorful sparks or the smell of smoke right away—and just a few days later, she did just that when her family home caught fire. As a result of her quick thinking, Reniya and her family were able to escape the fire without sustaining any injuries. Although they have lost their home, the family still have each other.
“I’m proud of my baby. She’s an attentive listener,” said Mrs. Ritter. “She’s very helpful. She wants to see people win. She helped us. She really, really saved us by listening and paying attention. I told her that was an A+ for me because not everybody pays attention and utilizes and brings it home. Everything she learned from Mr. Franklin, she brought it home and shared it with her family. We were able to put that into perspective and she saved us.”
Franklin said he was extremely proud of Reniya.
“It definitely made my day that she took the lesson to heart and brought that home to her family and not only did she learn it, but she passed it on to them and put it into use, so I’m very proud of her,” he said.
Livingston Elementary School principal, Dr. Yoli Howard, said she too was very proud of Reniya for not only paying attention to this life-saving information but also putting it to use to save her family.
“The fact that I have a third grader who came in, took it seriously, brought it home to her mother and was able to explain everything,” said Howard. “It filled my heart as a principal just knowing that we are doing the right things, bringing the programs in, and allowing the kids to have all of these different experiences. It fills my heart to know that she really did get it.”
The Newton County firefighters were excited to welcome Reniya as one of her own; they even took her and her family for a short ride in a fire truck at school, with Reniya controlling the lights and sirens.