Students explore simulated fire hazards for Fire Prevention Month

tstevens@ledger-enquirer.comOctober 9, 2013 

Two hundred elementary students are armed to fire-proof their homes after navigating the Columbus Fire Department's mobile fire safety house.

Students at Gentian Elementary lined up outside the fire safety house Wednesday to see the insides of a fire truck and learn how to handle a home emergency. The small trailer, which imitates the inside of a home, allows Fire Department officials to travel to elementary and middle schools throughout Muscogee County.

Gentian Elementary is the first of several educational expeditions the Fire Department is undertaking for Fire Prevention Month, though the mobile home is available for demonstrations throughout the year.

The Fire Department was able to raise $50,000 through private donations for the mobile home after two years of efforts.

"Applebee's and State Farm gave the lion's share of the donations," Fire Marshal Ricky Shores said. "But we couldn't have done it without smaller contributions from citizens."

The tour starts with a pretend kitchen, complete with a newspaper hovering dangerously near the stove and a pan with the handle turned precariously off the counter. The children are encouraged to call out the potential dangers, and Socratically offer suggestions on how to avoid home fires.

From there, the children move into a living room with a small fireplace. They're introduced to smoke detectors, warned away from playing with fire or electrical outlets and end their tour by gleefully crawling under smoke-machine generated fog, a fun exercise meant to teach escape tactics.

Sgt. Bruce Powell, who acts out his fire safety advice to students jovially and enthusiastically, said he enjoys imparting the potentially live-saving information to Muscogee County's children.

"We hit a lot of elementary and middle schools throughout the year," Powell said. "We don't do high school, though, because by then the students are not as responsive."

The event was a hit at Gentian Elementary, however. Students begged to try on firefighter gear worn by one employee and marveled at hoses dozens of feet long.

"I like when the smoke came up and we had to crawl on the floor like a baby," said first grade student Bayleigh Davis.

Trinity Walker, another first grade student who went through the demonstration, said she plans to go home and tell her parents how to avoid emergencies.

"I'll tell them that when there's smoke, you're supposed to call 911."

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