The average number of people who die every year in U.S. house fires is over half the population of DeWitt.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, approximately seven people die every day in a house fire in the U.S.. And according to the most recent U.S. census, the DeWitt population is approximately 4,756. October is fire prevention month, and DeWitt firefighters have made it their priority to educate children and adults on fire safety.
Both the DeWitt Area and DeWitt Township fire departments held the Fourth Annual Fire Prevention Open House on Oct. 8 to educate children on the dangers of fires. Children participated in a variety of activities that placed them in different scenarios and taught them the safest way to handle each situation. One simulator was a trailer that filled up with smoke, and the participants had to navigate their way to an exit.
“The smoke house is a good teaching tool to teach young people how to get out if a house is engulfed in smoke,” DeWitt firefighter Scott Campbell said. “I even recommend it for adults.”
Another important factor in fire safety and prevention is having smoke alarms and fire extinguishers inside every home. The firefighters at the open house lit small fires on the ground and let the kids practice handling a fire extinguisher to attempt to put out the fires.
Tim Ball, a DeWitt firefighter, said he thinks it is valuable to learn ways to manage a developing fire until firefighters can arrive at the scene.
“It takes some time for us to get to the scene,” Ball said. “If you can put out the fire with a fire extinguisher, you can save a lot of damage.”
Smoke alarms alert people to the presence of a fire inside the home, allowing them time to plan an escape. American Red Cross offers free installation of up to three smoke alarms in every home. And while sprinkler systems are not required in residential homes, the video below shows they are very effective in partially extinguishing a fire until firefighters arrive. The longer a fire is prevented from spreading, the longer a person has to escape the building.
Also at the open house, firefighters worked on exposing children to the gear and equipment that firefighters handle and wear.
“The important thing is to not be scared,” Ball said. “We want them to know who we are and what we look like.”
Most of the firefighters working for the departments in DeWitt are volunteers who want to keep the community safe.
“This is my community,” Ball said. “I grew up in it, and I take care of it.”
DeWitt Fire Chief Joe Spagnuolo said that events like the open house allow both departments to come together and show the community the value that they place on keeping DeWitt safe. Also, the firefighters visited 22 classes at Schavey Road Elementary School last month to teach students about fire safety and promote this year’s theme, “Not every hero wears a cape.”
“It’s a good thing because both departments come together to give to the community,” Spagnuolo said. “We train together, we work on-call together, and we help each other out.”
The DeWitt fire departments hold one fundraiser per year. These fundraisers enable them to purchase different tools and devices that ensure further safety of firefighters and residents. They have recently raised enough money to purchase a RIT-Pak, a portable air supply that replenishes a firefighters’ oxygen supplies if they are losing oxygen inside the scene of a fire.
This year’s fundraiser is the DeWitt Area Fire Annual Pancake Breakfast on Nov. 3 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.