NORWICH — Six Norwich students are being recognized for using their artistic skills to get the message out about the importance of fire safety, and their work could be featured in a statewide poster and calendar.
They were part of the Norwich Fire Department's annual fire prevention poster contest for fourth- and fifth-grade students.
This year's honorees, all girls from local schools, picked up their prizes Tuesday afternoon at the Norwich Fire Department headquarters.
A simple, yet vitally important warning was written above St. Patrick School student Zanfina Gjonbalaj's drawing of a large, red fire truck.
"Don't play with matches," the message says.
Zanfina's drawing was the winning fourth-grade entry in the contest. She received a fire extinguisher, a smoke detector and a $10 Wal-Mart gift card as prizes.
"It feels amazing. I never knew I'd win," Zanfina, 10, said.
Fourth-grade runner-ups were Allison Wojnar of Sacred Heart School and Isabella Way, also from St. Patrick. It also was Isabella's birthday on Tuesday.
For the fifth grade, the winner was Wequonnoc Arts and Technology Magnet School student Lauren Deane, and runner-ups were Kaitlyn Titus from Sacred Heart School and Ibnath Chouwbhury.
"One of the firefighters actually came to our school," Titus, 10, said.
For Titus, it was her second year being chosen as one of the local winners. She was a runner-up last year as well.
"We have a lot of really nice posters from all the schools," Norwich Fire Marshal Mark Gilot said.
The two first-place winning posters will be submitted to the statewide fire prevention and safety poster contest. They're eligible to be featured as one of the months in next year's fire safety calendar, Gilot said.
Winning posters from each town advance to the county level judging, and then a state winner is selected from the top county entries.
The statewide winner's entry is featured on the state's annual fire prevention poster, while the county winners are featured throughout the calendar. The state winner gets a $750 check and his or her school receives a $500 grant.
In addition to showcasing dozens of posters from students throughout the state, the calendar also offers important reminders and fire prevention tips, such as to check the batteries in smoke detectors on the first day of each month.
The Poster Recognition Program is sponsored by the Connecticut FAIR Plan, which represents the insurance industry, in cooperation with the Office of the State Fire Marshal, Connecticut Fire Marshals Association, Connecticut Fire Chiefs Association the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the state Board of Education.
Gilot said the judges look for correct spelling, a clear picture and "a good message."
"The ones we picked have all of that, and you should be proud," he told the children.