By Robert Nathan

Killeen Daily Herald

BELTON – A Harker Heights High School student was crowned Bell County's 2006-07 Miss Flame on Saturday, following in the footsteps of her best friend, who received the honor last year.

Melissa Knowles, 16, took the honor as the Harker Heights Fire Department Miss Flame on the steps of Belton City Hall following the annual Fire Prevention Parade in downtown Belton. She was chosen by judges in a competition against Miss Flame contestants from fire departments throughout Bell County.

Former Bell County Miss Flame Whitney Delano, who attends school with Knowles, passed the sash to her friend. Knowles said she wanted to compete for Bell County's Miss Flame when she saw Delano honored on the same steps last October.

"I saw Whitney do it last year and I thought it was really cool that she did it," Knowles said.

Knowles said the process leading up to the crowning of Bell County's Miss Flame was "a learning experience."

Cheryl Wolf, the Bell County Miss Flame coordinator, said the girls competing for the honor are selected by their local fire departments through a competitive application process at the girls' schools.

"It's a way for us to get more people involved in learning about fire prevention and fire safety," Wolf said. "If we can go to the schools and get children involved, they can be an influence to other students as well as their parents and get fire prevention widely spread."

The girls go before a judging committee after performing

community service activities and speaking to other students in the community about the importance of fire safety and fire prevention.

"Whenever we went to the elementary schools and we talked to the kids, they were so amazed by us," Knowles said. "You realize how much of an impact you make on your community and how much of a role model you are."

In May, Knowles will compete for the title of 2006-07 Central Texas Miss Flame in Cameron. If she fails to complete her yearlong tour as Miss Flame, she will be replaced by the first runner-up, Morgan Kelly of the Salado Fire Department or Meredith Carpenter, the second runner-up, of Morgan's Point Volunteer Fire Department.

Other Bell County Miss Flame contestants were: Kayla Metcalf of Moffat; Lauren Lindemann, of Temple; Sarah Koehl, of Belton; and Shanequa Sanders, of Killeen.

Also Saturday, county firefighters selected the top three winners in the annual poster contest.

They are, in their respective categories:

n Kindergarten Division – Alfredo Gomez, of Meredith Dunbar Elementary in Temple, first place; Ta'Kavia York, of Meredith Dunbar Elementary, second; and Eric DeLeon, of Meredith Dunbar Elementary, third. Maddy Mantanona, of Thomas Arnold Elementary of Salado, received honorable mention.

n Primary Division – Shelby Horak, Holland Elementary of Holland, first place; Sammi Peters, Thomas Arnold Elementary in Salado, second; and Sethann Baker, Harker Heights Elementary, third. Luke Bradley, of Thomas Arnold Elementary, received honorable mention.

n Intermediate Division – Xavier Shannon, Meredith Dunbar Elementary of Killeen, first place; Alexis Guerra, of Meredith Dunbar Elementary, second; and Samantha Chick, of Thomas Arnold Elementary, third. Ty Sebesta, of Thomas Arnold Elementary, received honorable mention.

n Middle Division – Noah Sartor, Bonham Middle School of Temple, first place; Austin Couillard, of Bonham Middle School, second; and Zachary Thorn, of Holland Middle School, third. Tommy Larson, of Bonham Middle School, received honorable mention.

n Junior High Division – Daniel Robert Morron, of Bonham Middle School, first place; Sarai Ballesteros, of Lake Belton Middle School of Temple, second; and Madeleine Devall, of Lake Belton Middle School, third.

n High School Division – Kirby Jackson, Troy High School, first place; Aaron Landes, Troy High School, second; and Julie Garret, Troy High School, third. Bryan Toler, of Troy High School, received honorable mention.

All the first-place winners await the Central Texas competition in May.

Contact Robert Nathan at

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