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PHOTO CAPTION:  Nine-year-old Ashley Lee accepts a trophy from Joseph Baker, Fort Campbell assistant fire chief, at Lucas Elementary School Monday afternoon. Lee won top honors in a post wide elementary poster contest in honor of Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 6-12. Her creation best conveyed this year's theme: "Prevent Kitchen Fires."

October 28, 2013
By Heather Clark, Courier staff

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- Each year, the National Fire Protection Association develops a different theme to be the focal point during Fire Prevention Week. The theme for this year's prevention week, Oct. 6-12, focused on the one room in the house that is responsible for more home fires than any other -- the kitchen.

During that week, Fort Campbell's elementary students were tasked with creating posters, which best conveyed the message: "Prevent Kitchen Fires." At each of the installation elementary schools, one winner per grade was chosen. Out of these top designs, one poster was chosen to receive top recognition, along with a specially-selected grand prize.

The winning poster was designed by a student at Andre Lucas Elementary -- a fact that was not revealed until Monday afternoon, when fourth and fifth grade students gathered in the auditorium for the Cool Cats ceremony, held each grading period.

At the onset of the ceremony, a special guest was invited onstage -- Joseph Baker, assistant fire chief for Fort Campbell Fire and Emergency Services. It was Baker who announced that the post wide competition had ended, and that the best-designed poster had been created by a Lucas student. That announcement was enough to generate excitement among the students in the audience -- so by the time it was announced that 4th grader Ashley Lee was the grand prize recipient, the auditorium was overrun with applause.

On stage, Lee was all smiles as Baker held up her winning creation -- a detailed and illustrated instructional guide to safe practices in the kitchen and what to do in the event of a fire emergency.

"In second and third grade, they taught a little bit about fire prevention," said Lee. "I tried to remember some of that and put it on there [the poster]. Sometimes I think about fires that could happen at my house, so I wrote some of that down."

"Part of our preparedness is talking about fire -- the things you can do to prevent fires and how you should react to fires," explained Ted Turnipseed, Lucas Elementary principal.

In recognition of her efforts, Baker presented Lee with a golden cup trophy and a $100 gift card for the Exchange. Prize number three, however, was not something that could be handed over within the confines of an auditorium. Before the school year is out, Lee will get the opportunity to have one of Fort Campbell's fire safety vehicles provide her with a ride to school.

"I feel very happy," said Lee, upon learning she'd been chosen to receive the award. "I feel very proud."

Other proud audience members included her mother, grandmother and father -- who was lucky enough to be on R&R from Afghanistan at the time of the ceremony.

"It's a big surprise, and I am very proud of her for winning," said Lt. Col. Derrick Lee, part of the 101st Airborne Division staff. "She's always been pretty creative, and it's good to see that get recognized in a wider forum. It's been a real treat."

"It's wonderful that he was here," said Turnipseed. "It wasn't planned; it was just a happy accident. We're so glad that it happened."

Turnipseed said he is also very proud of the reception Lee received from her fellow classmates.

"Our three rules are 'Be kind to the space, be kind to one another and be kind to yourself,'" he said. "Our kids emulate that. The culture at our school is a very caring culture."

Lee, who enjoys drawing and also received an academic award during the Cool Cat ceremony, has a single piece of advice for fellow students who want to participate in community events.

"When you have an opportunity like this, always try," said Lee. "Try your best."