CANFIELD House teaches kids fire safety



CANFIELD -- Firefighters of the Cardinal Joint Fire District use a firefighting tool that most area fire departments lack: a "hazard house."
It looks more like a dollhouse than an educational tool intended to save lives.
Bought last March for about $6,000, the house holds the attention of local children and helps them learn about fire safety.
Deputy Chief Don Hutchison bought the house with an initial goal of having the kids who witness his presentation go home and share the fire safety information with their parents.
After seeing the impact the hazard house has had after less than a year, he has set loftier goals.
Hutchison first realized the importance of the house while at a fire convention in Baltimore.
"When my son stood in line for 10 minutes just to see it happen I realized that it caught kids' interest. And after we stood in line there was a group of a dozen around us watching," Hutchison said.
The kids start learning about fire safety as soon as they look at the house. They can spot some of the hazards before the demonstration starts. Hutchison interacts with them during the presentation and asks them what the hazards are and how these should be eliminated.
Starts in basement
Hutchison starts the presentation by showing a fire in the basement. Smoke fills the basement and then travels upstairs. There are no smoke detectors in the basement and the fire spreads, undetected. Hutchison shows the kids the importance of having a smoke detector at all levels of the home.
"My goal is to have every house in Canfield totally smoke-alarmed at all levels of the home because that's the best you can be without having a firetruck at every house," Hutchison said. "It's just a quick alert and getting them out of the house."
Smoke is pumped into other areas of the house to simulate actual fires. The smoke catches the kids' attention and help them learn the dangers that could exist in their own homes.
Although the hazard house is used mostly to educate children, adults also can learn about fire safety from the presentation. Hutchison said many of the kids and adults comment that they never knew about the need for signals or smoke alarms on every level before seeing the hazard house.
"The presentation gives a full simulation of how fast smoke travels through a house. It shows kids what to tell their parents about," Hutchison said.
Escape plans
Hutchison stresses the importance of escape plans and ways to signal from inside a smoke-filled house.
Canfield firefighters have traveled to local schools and preschools to teach kids with the house. Hutchison hopes to continue to educate kids and add new features to the presentation.
"We work with the school system, and what has been discussed is possibly going the next step up with the carbon monoxide awareness," Hutchison said.
The Canfield hazard house is one of four in Ohio, according to Hutchison. The others are in Stow, Cleveland and Columbus.

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