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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Fire Prevention Month has nearly ended, but may I still enlist your help?

Firefighters across the country are so eager to respond to emergency calls, they frequently fail to buckle their own seat belts. Last year, 13 firefighters died from injuries that could have been prevented simply by buckling their seat belts.

While many fire departments have rules that are strictly enforced, the majority do not enforce the seat belt rule until someone gets hurt or killed. Six firefighters this year have died from rollovers or being thrown from fire and personal vehicles while responding to a fire. Excuses from firefighters range from, "We need to put on our gear," to "Seat belts don't fit over the gear." It is the responsibility of each individual to buckle his or her seat belt.

I'd like to ask each spouse, parent, child, family member or friend of a firefighter to please remind him or her to buckle up whether riding in a fire truck or ambulance. Listen up, firefighters: Seatbelts Are For Everyone ... even firefighters! Not buckling up is just plain stupid. -- JANET WILMOTH, EDITOR, "FIRE CHIEF"

DEAR JANET: I'm pleased to publicize your appeal. It would be a tragedy if a firefighter is killed before he or she can even respond to the emergency. Certainly "buckling up" is not too much to ask from our heroes. Their jobs are risky enough as it is.

DEAR ABBY: I am fond of my son-in-law, "Kirk." He is a fine person. However, Kirk is overweight and has high cholesterol, and my daughter, "Gloria," told me she finds Kirk's weight a "turnoff."

While they were visiting me last weekend, Gloria went to the cupboard where I keep candy and nuts for my bridge group. She filled a plate with divinity, chocolate kisses, nuts, etc. and set it on the table right in front of Kirk. We had just returned from a champagne brunch. I later told Gloria I thought it was wrong of her to serve candy to Kirk knowing he wouldn't be able to resist. She replied, "Everyone is responsible for himself."

What is your take on this situation? -- CONCERNED M-I-L IN SAN DIEGO

DEAR CONCERNED: What your daughter is doing to her husband is deliberate sabotage. She's feeding his weakness. For whatever reasons, she isn't encouraging a healthy, fit spouse. People who love each other want what's best for them and offer support. Shame on Gloria.

DEAR ABBY: I am an 18-year-old guy who's been dating my 13-year-old girlfriend for the past six months. Her mom knows we go out, but she doesn't know I'm 18. She thinks I just turned 17.

Abby, I really love this girl. We've made a commitment to get married when she turns 18, which is when she graduates from high school.

In the meantime, what should I do about lying to her mom about my age? -- TOTALLY IN LOVE

DEAR TOTALLY IN LOVE: Level with her mother. If you are caught in this lie, the girl's parents will rightfully wonder what else you and their daughter have been lying about. Furthermore, without her parents' blessing, in some states -- if this should "go too far" -- you may find yourself in legal trouble because you are considered an adult and she is a minor. Please give this some serious thought and don't delay.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600