Bogut and Bucks Help Spark Up a Conversation

Players do their part to promote fire prevention

By Brett Winkler

In the Bucks annual Fire Prevention Game on Saturday, October 17, it was fitting that Andrew Bogut caught fire, scoring 10 points and grabbing a game-high 13 rebounds for his first double-double of the preseason.

While it's a good thing to catch fire on the basketball court, Bogut and the Bucks know that there's nothing good about uncontrolled fires off the court. And unlike a strong rebounding performance by the Aussie, hazardous fires around the house are easy to prevent.

As part of National Fire Prevention Week (October 4-10), which culminated for the Bucks with a 101-87 win over the Timberwolves in the Fire Prevention Game, the Bucks recently teamed up with the Milwaukee Fire Department (MFD) to help promote fire safety.

On Friday, October 9, a fire truck picked up Bogut and teammates Brandon Jennings, Ersan Ilyasova and Francisco Elson from the Bradley Center and escorted the players to Engine 31 in West Milwaukee. From there, the foursome assisted the MFD in inspecting and installing smoke detectors for Milwaukee residents.

"Four players from the Bucks team come every year to help us install smoke detectors in areas around the city of Milwaukee," said Fire Chief Douglass Holton. "It is my pleasure to work along side with the Milwaukee Bucks."

In conjunction with Project F.O.C.U.S (Firefighters Out Creating Urban Safety), an 18-year-old MFD program designated to send firefighters door-to-door to examine smoke alarms in area homes, the Bucks players took to the streets armed with tamper proof smoke detectors and fresh batteries.

Click and Roll
Bucks Fire Prevention Photo Gallery
Bucks Fire Prevention
Poster Contest Winner Poster Contest Winner
Tamara D.
7th Grade

"We're trying to encourage people to check their smoke detectors," said Bogut, who served as the Honorary Fire Chief for the event for a fourth consecutive year. "Making sure that they have smoke detectors that are running and functioning."

The Bucks and the MFD urged local residents to test their smoke detectors regularly, at least once each month. Something as simple as a change of batteries could mean the difference between life and death.

Given that the detectors are typically placed on or near the ceiling in most homes, the Bucks made sure that, at least on this day, the "it's too far out of reach" excuse went up in smoke.

Residents in Engine 31's surrounding neighborhood were able to forgo the stepstool in favor of 7-footers Bogut and Elson, 6-foot-9 Ilyasova and even 6-foot-1 Brandon Jennings, who, though short by comparison, had no trouble testing and installing alarms.

"You're tall," remarked one lucky resident as Bogut replaced a faulty alarm for a brand new one.

"That's what they tell me," said Bogut with a smile.

Nobody, though, has to tell Bogut or the Bucks what it means for them to volunteer their time and energy to promoting fire safety. Perhaps more so than their height, the MFD continually utilizes the Bucks' willingness to help out with an important issue, both locally and nationally.

"We've been conducting this program with the Milwaukee Bucks for 11 years and we are very, very proud of it," said Fire Chief Holton. "We are proud of their commitment to keep the people safe in the city of Milwaukee."

While the importance of a functioning smoke detector is always at the forefront of the fire safety campaign, the Bucks and the MFD wanted to bring attention to another potentially dangerous habit, particularly in cold weather areas like Wisconsin.

"Space heaters are a big issue in the winter time," said Bogut. "Make sure you have sufficient space away from your heater. You don't want to leave blankets or clothes too close to a heater because they will catch on fire."

To ensure that the space heater message is not lost upon anyone this year, the MFD made "Space Heaters Need Space" its theme for the 11th annual Poster-to-Billboard contest. The contest was open to all Milwaukee public and private schools, with Bogut personally selecting ten winners: the top three from three different age groups (K-2, 3-5, and 6-8) as well as one grand prize winner. All ten winners received a $250 certificate to American TV & Appliance courtesy of the Milwaukee Bucks.

In the kindergarten through second grade bracket, Bogut selected the poster of second grader Kiara Orozco of Spanish Immersion School as the winner. A couple of first graders at Bruce Guadalupe Community School took the next two prizes, with second place going to Juan Carlos and third going to classmate Alondra Mora-Munoz.

Fifth grader Stephanie Danner of St. Mathias School earned top honors in the third through fifth grade group, with fellow St. Mathias student Kayla Cardenas, a fourth grader, taking second and Alicia Hernandez, a fifth grader from Spanish Immersion School, finishing third.

The top three posters in the eldest group, grades six through eight, went to Eric Jordan, an eighth grade student at Samuel Morse School; Joslynn Bowers, an eighth grader from Story School; and Jenna Knueppel of the sixth grade class at Samuel Morse.

The grand prize winner, whose poster will be turned into a billboard in a space provided by Clear Channel Outdoor, went to Tamara Danquah, a seventh grader from Blessed Savior South Campus. Danquah's poster won thanks in part to a dramatic portrayal of a burning house, complete with a message of warning: This is what happens when a space heater does not have space.

Bogut had an even simpler reason for his grand prize selection. "It was the one that stood out the most and was the easiest to read," he said.

All ten winners were invited to lunch at the Milwaukee Fire Department Headquarters in downtown Milwaukee with Fire Chief Holton and members of the Bucks front office staff, where they received their prizes and shared their artistic secrets.

Then, on October 17, the winners were put up in a luxury suite at the Bradley Center to watch the Bucks beat the Timberwolves in the Fire Prevention Game. At halftime, Honorary Fire Chief Bogut, along with Fire Chief Holton, recognized the winners of the poster contest in front of an enthusiastic and appreciative home crowd.

Overall, the Bucks and the MFD enjoyed another successful campaign promoting fire safety in the community, but they know that plenty of work remains.

"We're still a long way off," Bogut said. "There are still a lot of people every winter dying or having their houses go up in flames because there's no space around their space heaters."