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Newton approves fire house to teach safety

COVINGTON - Newton County Fire Services will soon have a new way to teach fire safety outside the classroom.

County commissioners recently approved the purchase of a fire safety house, a mobile, 36-foot-long trailer in which a fire can be simulated.

Inside, the trailer has a bed and kitchen to give the appearance of a normal home. Artificial, non-toxic smoke and flames are generated by a machine to create the illusion of a fire. On the other end of the trailer, there are bleachers where the public can sit and watch it all take place and then participate in an exit drill.

"Once we've talked to children and adults about ways to escape and smoke detectors, we send a burst of artificial smoke, set off a smoke alarm and practice what we just talked about," Fire Chief Mike Satterfield said.

There are even door knobs that heat up to teach the proper way to check a doorknob to determine if there is fire on the other side, and then exit out a window if necessary.

The unit also includes a severe weather option that will allow instructors to show what to do in the event of a tornado or other disaster.

The trailer will primarily be used to teach fire safety and prevention to schoolchildren and used at special events, such as the family fun night hosted by the Fire Department last Thursday. In the past the department has borrowed a fire safety house for those purposes, but there is typically a waiting list of several months to secure one for an event, Satterfield said.

"We'll be happy to have our own and that way we can set the schedule for it as needed," he said.

The $57,100 trailer will be purchased from Surrey Fire Safety House and Mobile Command.

The majority of funds - $45,680 - will come from a Homeland Security grant, with the remaining $11,420 coming from the fire fund.

Satterfield saw the fire house at the International Fire Rescue Expo where it was used as a demo unit.

"We had been shopping online and in brochures, but this unit caught my eye. It had features we wanted, but it was more than we could afford," he said.

Because it was used as a demo unit, Surrey Fire Homes knocked off more than $10,000 from the price. Satterfield said the unit is in great shape and even includes additional features put in for demonstration purposes.