From the beginning....

Fireman Freddy and Bob Bonnell

The year was 1966 and Bob Bonnell of #6 Station was having a conversation with his officer, Captain Eulan Tucker.  The subject was fire safety for school children and Bob had several ideas.  That was the seed for what was to be a very successful program, one that is now recognized nationally.

Eulan Tucker, then the Chief of the Toledo Fire Division, felt educating the public in fire safety should begin at the elementary school level.

After careful consideration and screening, Chief Tucker decided to offer the challenge of development, implementation and administration of the program to a 17-year veteran, Bob Bonnell.

On September 6, 1972, Bonnell was summoned to Chief Tucker's office and offered the position.  Although somewhat hesitant, Bonnell decided there was a great need for such a program and his thoughts and ideas could be the difference in helping children learn about fire safety and even saving lives.  He accepted the position and began his challenge immediately.

Mr. Bonnell worked with Dave Schaffer, of the Toledo Board of Education, to develop a home inspection program for children.  The target date was to be January, 1973.

Meanwhile, Bob visited his first school on October 10, 1972 and talked to second graders.  From that date until Christmas, he talked at any school that would let him through the door.

Mr. Bonnell continued to revise and improve the program.  He contacted Father Etzel, Superintendent of Catholic Schools, and gained his acceptance and cooperation.

With the help of some outside agencies, Bob was ready to finally present the finished (at that time) product to school children.  On January 12, 1973, Bob visited his first school under the approval of Toledo Public Schools.  During that first year, Bob was to visit 96 schools and talk to 11,989 students.

Bob felt it necessary to have some sort of eye-catching colorful caricature that children could identify with his program.  He was to visit a high school, where the art and carpenter departments designed and built a 4-foot high wood figure that was to be known as Fireman Freddy, named by Mr. Bonnell after a friend on the Fire Department.  The program was was now "Fire Safety with Fireman Freddy".  Although not realizing it at the time, Mr. Bonnell had lost his individual identity.

Bob Bonnell alone was responsible for the acceptance of this safety program. 

The original program consisted of:
Kindergarten:  A show of firefighter's equipment and talk about the firefighter.
Fourth Grade:  A talk, centered around fire safety in the home, and a handout of a home inspection report which was to be taken home, filled out and returned.
Sixth Grade:  A movie on how to get out of a burning home; a discussion after, and an evacuation plan to take home.

When Bill Neeb became Chief in October, 1976, he called Bob to his office and asked him to continue.  Each succeeding Chief has endorsed this program.

Bob Bonnell retired in January, 1980, and was replaced by John Nofziger. Other fire safety officers include Paul Mettes, J.K. Williams, Roger Ball, Mike Condon, Mel Minnfield, and Dave Wernert.

Today, over 56,000 adults and children annually benefit from this program..

In the very first year, upon finishing a talk to 4th graders, a little boy came up to Fireman Freddy (Bob Bonnell) and said, "I feel much safer, now."

Bob Bonnell knew he made the right decision and was indeed going to make a contribution in the area of fire safety education.  And., HE HAS!