There’s a hot new house in Clovis
Capt. Karen Burns with the Clovis Fire Department demonstrates new features on the stove in the fire safety house on Tuesday. CNJ photo: Eric Kluth
The Clovis Fire Department has a new and improved version of one of its more popular pieces of equipment — a “fire safety house” used by the department’s fire prevention division to teach children how to avoid being injured or killed by fire in their homes.
From 1995 until this past summer, the fire department owned a specially configured trailer designed to pour smoke into the air, simulate a hot door with fire on the other side, and otherwise model conditions of a house on fire. That fire safety house was sold to a North Dakota fire department, and Clovis took delivery of a new unit Tuesday morning.
“When we look at this, it is a hands-on educational tool,” said Capt. Karen Burns, fire prevention officer. “We say to kids, ‘If this were your house and it was on fire, what would you do?’”
The old model was in high demand not just in Clovis and Curry County but from departments and schools as far away as Portales and Tucumcari. Burns said it wasn’t uncommon for her fire safety staff to give a dozen or more presentations each month teaching children such skills as why they need to crawl rather than stand in smoke and why they should never grab a hot pot on their parent’s stove.
There was a catch, however — the old unit wasn’t designed for the high wind conditions of New Mexico. The new fire safety house is designed differently and won’t have that problem. Most of the $45,600 purchase price was covered by a $40,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the remainder was covered by the sale of the old unit, Burns said.
Burns said she expects the new unit to be heavily utilized once the Clovis Fire Department makes the necessary upgrades to get it ready for use by children. That may take some time, but Burns said she’s already received calls from people who want to use it to demonstrate fire safety to their children.
One of those people is Gina Dorazio, a kindergarten teacher at Barry Elementary School in Clovis who has taken her students through the fire safety house each year since coming to Clovis eight years ago.
“I lost a kindergartner in a fire one year so it’s extremely important to me that kids know exactly what to do in the case of a fire,” Dorazio said.
“I think it’s fantastic that they do this for the kids,” Dorazio said. “They get to learn about all the different poisons in the kitchen and teach them all about fire safety, and the kids leave with a very positive experience.”
Dorazio cautioned that some children are terrified by a firefighter in a full suit with breathing apparatus, but the opportunity to see a firefighter at a school setting helps prevent problems.
“They get to see the firemen in their entire get-up so they’re not scared if they see a person in a mask coming for them,” Dorazio said. “(Burns) assures them that everything is OK if they see a fireman, to be sure they come out and not hide under the bed or in a closet.”