Kingsport Fire Department getting new education robot

KINGSPORT, TN (WJHL-TV) – Children in Kingsport will soon be seeing a newer version of an old friend.

Thanks to a $12,000 donation for Domtar, the Kingsport Fire Department will be getting a brand new “Sparky the Fire Dog” robot. This afternoon, representatives from Domtar presented the department with a check to cover the complete cost of a new Sparky.

“The Sparky that we currently have, it’s been a fantastic tool but he is getting a little worn out.”, explains Kingsport Fire Department Education Officer and “Sparky” operator Barry Brickey, “Sparky is always a big hit when we’re out anywhere, kids want to come up and say hi, they want to talk to him and one of the really funny things is sometimes I’ll have small children say “I know you’re the one controlling him” and i’ll tell them “yeah, but Sparky doesn’t know that”. And they are “oh OK”…. ”

This donation is part of Domtar’s year-long 100th anniversary celebration. Throughout the year, the mill is commemorating the milestone with several local activities and events to reinforce their long standing history in Kingsport.

“I am pleased to say that much of our relationship with the Kingsport Fire Dept. has been built on the life-safety educational programs they provide the mill staff.”, says Domtar Manager Bill MacPherson.

The current Sparky was purchased nearly 10 years ago and has become an integral part of the department’s fire safety education program. His eyes move and he talks with the children and is able to communicate with them on their level as he drives a mini fire truck, often using the emergency lights and siren.

“He is a huge draw,but one of the best things about the Sparky robot is when we teach the children different things about fire safety is that he’ll come along with me and then I’ll have him ask the kids questions about that, about what they’ve learned and they’ll repeat those to him and then they’ll go home and make sure their families check their smoke alarms and do a home escape plan and then they are a whole lot safer.”, explains Brickey, “One of the big things that he does when he’s finished talking to the kids, he’ll actually squirt them with a little water and that’s what they really, really want to get to but they learn a whole lot before we get to that point.”

The new Sparky should be ready to join the department in 5-6 weeks and will much more closely match their trucks. In fact, he will closely resemble their brand new ladder truck.

Copyright 2016 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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