Local fire squads choose winner of Fire Princess title
By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on October 15, 2007 1:46 PM
Maybe it was the play on popular culture -- a young girl dressed in a leopard-skin skirt, emerging from a makeshift cave that her "husband" had just caught on fire.
It could have been the way the capacity crowd inside Wayne Community College's auditorium erupted each time her name was announced.
But whatever the reason, Wayne County has a new Fire Princess -- Pikeville Pleasant Grove Volunteer Fire Department's Amber Baker.
The 16-year-old Charles B. Aycock High School student took home the crown after her skit, which showed the crowd how simple fire safety and prevention is, was met with laughter and loud cheers.
"Fire prevention is so easy a cavewoman could do it," she said.
Hundreds attended Satur-day's pageant, a county tradition for more than 30 years.
But Amber was not the only one to play on pop culture.
Several of the 11 contestants used film and music references in their skits, a portion of the show many said took months of practice to nail down.
Some, like Fremont's Allison Evans, sang original numbers that outlined steps toward fire prevention.
Others, including 16-year-old Ashley Barwick, used their two minutes to tell a more dramatic tale.
The Arrington representative's skit was titled "If I only," and told the story of a mother losing her infant son in a fire. It was Christmas time.
"All he wanted was a new bicycle," she said.
But when she forgot to water the fresh tree and left the lights on overnight, a deadly blaze broke out.
"Watering the tree never crossed my mind," Ashley said. "Tommy insisted I leave the lights on for Santa."
She later explained, hunched over his grave, that had she followed fire prevention tips outlined by local firefighters, the incident might have never happened.
"Maybe all this could have been avoided," she said.
In the end, the pageant achieved what it was meant to -- it taught a few hundred people how to prevent fires and crowned a new princess.
But this year's winner still had some knowledge to share.
"Men, yes men, are responsible for 64 percent of fires," Amber said.
The firefighters on hand grumbled and then laughed.
"Shortly after man discovered fire, he discovered the need for fire safety," she said.
And for the 11 young women who competed, with the discovery of fire came a chance to educate the public and take home a crown, too.
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