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Bowie firefighters start mock house fire to teach safety

Thomas Warren, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – Tina Spurgeon, 8, and her siblings watched intently as a small, wooden house ignited on the Bowie Fire Department’s front lawn.

They pointed as a fire truck, sirens blaring, raced 20 feet from a side driveway to the scene. Their eyes bulged as six firefighters, in full tactical gear, surrounded the house with water hoses and shot the fire down.

The spectacle was part of the Bowie Fire Department 28th annual community preparedness program Saturday afternoon. The event, part of Prince George’s County’s Fire Prevention Week, was intended to help families prevent a tragic home emergency.

Firefighters gave parents reminders in safety techniques and taught fire prevention to kids as young as kindergartners.

“If we can catch them early, and make them aware, we’re able to hopefully prevent that fire from occurring in their home,” says Bowie Fire Marshal Peter Mellitis.

A signature part of the program is to identify major fire zones within a home. Mellitis says most of the in-home fire calls they receive in the winter are for blazes that start in the kitchen, and kids are often involved.

“You put kids together in the winter, and kids together in the kitchen, and that is where we’re seeing the most fires occur,” Mellitis says.

In 2010, fire departments in the United States responded to 369,500 home fires that caused 13,350 injuries, 2,640 deaths and an estimated $6.9 billion in damages, according to Prince George’s County records.

Crofton resident Gary Bernerd, who attended the event, says he often talks with his kids about what to do in cases of emergencies.

“We’ve got a plan,” he says. “They know when it’s this time of year to change the batteries in the smoke alarms.”

Tina’s sister Becca Spurgeon, 10, who learned what it takes to put out a fire, says she does not want to be a firefighter, but she respects the job they do.

“They’re pretty cool because they save people’s lives,” she says.

Be prepared and have an emergency escape plan. Check out Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department tips:

  • Make a map of your home. Mark a door and a window that can be used to get out of every room.
  • Choose a meeting place outside in front of your home. This is where everyone can meet once they have escaped. Draw a picture of your outside meeting place on your escape plan.
  • Write the emergency telephone number for the fire department on your escape plan.
  • Have a grown-up sound the smoke alarm and practice your escape plan with everyone living in your home.
  • Keep your escape plan on the refrigerator and remind adults to have your family practice the plan twice a year or whenever anyone in your home celebrates a birthday.

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