Over the last 31 years, Patti Peterson has taught and coordinated fire-safety programs for parents, teachers and children in the Wichita area.
“It’s really hard to replace the passion and dedication she has for young kids,” said Sedgwick County Fire Marshal Tavis Leake. “She expects nothing but the best.”
But somebody will have to replace Peterson, who retired from the Sedgwick County Fire Department last month. She was honored for her work Tuesday by the Safe Kids Coalition of Wichita, which presented Peterson with its first Lifetime Achievement Award.
Peterson’s colleagues, county officials and members of Safe Kids gathered at Via Christi Hospital on Harry for the ceremony.
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Ronda Lusk, coordinator of Safe Kids in Wichita, thinks Peterson was one of the group’s founding members in 1988. Since then, she has been a “tireless champion” for safety in Sedgwick County and eight surrounding counties, she said. Safe Kids is an organization devoted to preventing accidental injuries.
Leake said Peterson’s work has decreased fire injuries and fire deaths in the county. That was demonstrated by the Rasmussen family’s miraculous survival in a house fire in the late 1990s.
Peterson’s Great Escape program encouraged children to go home and create a fire-escape plan with their family. The Rasmussen children followed Peterson’s advice and created a plan just a few weeks before their house burned down. All nine family members escaped the fire.
Peterson also spent a lot of time working on her Y-Fire Academy Program, a fire-prevention program with the Juvenile Court system. The program focuses on children as old as 17 who have problems playing with fire.
“I hope the trend of trying to prevent fires continues,” Peterson said.
After 31 years of service, Peterson said, “I wish I had 31 more.”