FAIRBANKS — “Put your hands up,” one firefighter told a kindergartner at Hunter Elementary School.
It wasn’t an emergency, though, and the student wasn’t in trouble — it was part Operation Warm, an attempt to provide winter coats to children in need.
The Firefighters Union for the Fairbanks Fire Department worked in conjunction with the national nonprofit organization Operation Warm to make sure the neediest children throughout Fairbanks had access to warm new coats before the arrival of winter.
The Fairbanks firefighters distributed coats Monday to students at Hunter, in part because nearly 76 percent of the school’s students live in low-income households.
Students at Hunter filed through the school’s lobby, where the firefighters let them pick out their favorite color of coat, ranging from blue and dark gray or green to pink and purple.
Individual firefighters then made sure each coat fit by having kids lift up their arms and moving around. The ritual was complete for each student when firefighters determined the coat fit and they wrote the student’s name inside — signifying the coat’s new ownership.
The Fairbanks crew gave out coats Monday to dozens of students at Hunter.
Firefighters around the country and Operation Warm have teamed up to manufacture 30,000 American-made coats for children. The International Association of Firefighters endorsed Operation Warm this year and encouraged its local chapters, like the one in Fairbanks, to participate.
The association has more than 300,000 members internationally, and in its first year working with Operation Warm, has already reached more than 23,000 children in the United States through local campaigns.