CROSBY -- A fire can engulf a home in a matter of minutes, trapping children and adults in their bedrooms.
Now Brainerd lakes area children will have an opportunity that few have had before -- to practice escaping from inside a smoke-filled home.
The Cuyuna Range Fire Chiefs Association, which includes 32 area fire departments, recently purchased a Fire Safe Escape House from a Twin Cities area fire department for $10,000. Each fire department in the association now has the ability to use the house at area schools or events.
The 8-foot by 22-foot two-story simulated home is built on wheels and will be used throughout the area as a hands-on tool to teach fire safety education. Classes of children are led through the home and upstairs into the bedroom by firefighters who explain how to safely escape from a burning home.
Jim Roach, a Mission Township volunteer firefighter, sat in the control center of the fire safe escape house last week. Once firefighters bring students upstairs into the bedroom-looking room, another firefighter in this control room will activate the fake smoke, requiring children to use their heads and safely find ways to exit the burning home.
Another firefighter in a separate control room then starts the fake non-toxic smoke that filters throughout the home. Fire-crackling sounds can be heard. A red light over the simulated bedroom door warns children that the door is hot and can't be opened.
Children then are taught how to crouch down to the floor to safely escape the smoke and use alternate routes to leave the home, which include climbing out onto the building's deck and being rescued by firefighters.
"The smoke is so thick you can't see the person in front of you," Jim Roach, a volunteer firefighter with the Mission Township Fire Department, said of the safe escape house. "It's that smoke-filled room. It just drives the message home. These kids, they get scared."
Three years ago, the Cuyuna Range Fire Chiefs Association rented a safe escape house that more than 500 children at the Crow Wing County Fair used. This year, the new safe escape house will be used.
Crosby-Ironton juniors and seniors in Jim Baratto's industrial arts class repaired and remodeled the safe escape house, repairing shingles and moldings.
Roach said that while mainly elementary students will use the safe escape house, it will also be used to educate adults and children as young as age 2.
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