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The Ones To Know: Fire Clowns Have Serious Message For Plano Kids

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PLANO (CBS11) - Two Plano firefighters are part of a team sending a serious message about fire safety to children.

It's their alter egos, Patches and Snozzel that make them The Ones To Know.

The large clown trailer parked outside the fire station is an important reminder that every good firefighter knows the right job requires the right piece of equipment.

After more than 30 years as a firefighter, Calvin Cook has taken on a lot of specialized roles.

"Special rescue, hazmat, SWAT medic, all kinds of stuff like that, a lot of public education stuff, and out of all of it, this has by far been my favorite," Cook said.

Plano fire clown
Plano fire clown, Patches (CBS11)

"Patches" is one of seven members of the Plano fire clown team assigned to teach fire prevention and safety to children. Not every firefighter is cut out for this kind of work. It takes a certain skill set.

"But really what brought it out and made me know that's where I wanted to be is when we got in front of the kids. The kids will bring the best out of you," Cook said.

Firefighter Chris Jefferson started Plano's program 20 years ago. He said departments across the country sometimes have a hard time defending their programs against budget cuts because the value isn't easy to measure.

"You can't show numbers of things that don't happen, Jefferson said, "The fact that the city is still standing. I don't want to claim all of that, but you know."

"We're goofy, but really there's a seriousness about it too, and that's what gets us into it is knowing that we're preventing something," Cook said.

Jefferson said the proof comes from cases like one in which a little girl overruled her parents who were about to blow off the sound of their carbon monoxide detector.

"And she said, no, the clowns at school said we need to get out and call 911, and she got all of her family out of the house, made them call 911. The fire department showed up, and the carbon monoxide level was sky high. It would have killed them if they'd went to bed," Jefferson recalled.

Plano fire clown
Plano fire clown, Snozzel (CBS11)

Some departments have asked their fire clowns to take off their makeup and costumes in public between performances. Plano's team uses its lunch break as an opportunity.

"We actually purposefully go out in public in these places to get us out there, and show people that, you know what, clowns are fun. Clowns are happy," Jefferson said.

This team sees their calling as more than firefighters, more than hoses and oxygen tanks. They just use face paint and crazy costumes to make their point.

"They say when you put your makeup on, you take your mask off, and that's really who I am," Cook said.

(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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