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Rekindled project

Julie Saetre | May 01, 2017

Nearly 100,000 children have visited the Orillia Kiwanis Club’s fire safety house. Renovating their popular fire safety house came with a steep price tag. Find out how the Orillia, Ontario, Kiwanis club accepted and met the challenge.

Imagine a calm kitchen, with a casserole cooking in the oven. Suddenly, the dish erupts into flames and the kitchen fills rapidly with smoke. Now imagine you’re not an adult, but a child, enveloped by the dense, dark haze. Would you know what to do?

Thanks to a two-decade commitment by the Kiwanis Club of Orillia, Ontario, tens of thousands of children have learned how to survive such a situation. In 1998, after a two-year fundraising drive, the club purchased a Fire Safety House.

Located in a 28-foot trailer and manned by members of five fire departments, the Fire Safety House hosts students in grades 2 through 5. Once inside, the children see a kitchen equipped with a stove. A fire prevention officer explains what will happen next: A simulated fire will break out, first from the oven, then from a pot on the stovetop. Simulated smoke will billow into the trailer. And then the most important part: The children learn how to escape safely.

Longtime club member Jerry Wink has nurtured the project from the beginning.
“The fire departments do a great job in preparing the children,” Wink says. “It’s not a scary experience. When the fire alarms go off and the smoke starts coming, they know about planning escape routes, the process of dropping and rolling and getting out—not looking for a hiding place.”

Wink says fire department personnel estimate that nearly 100,000 children have passed through the house. With its 20th anniversary approaching, the trailer was showing its age. A new version carried a steep CA$100,000 price tag; so, Wink and his fellow Kiwanians once again got to work raising funds.

In-kind contributions of materials and labor from Kiwanis club members and businesses took care of $20,000 of the $50,000-plus needed for a thorough renovation. Firefighter associations donated $5,000, a variety of cash donations matched that sum and the Orillia Kiwanis Club pitched in $20,000.

The rehabbed trailer welcomed students during Orillia’s Fire Safety Week in October 2016, and Wink couldn’t be happier.

“Our area has not had a child fatality in a fire,” he says, “and we’d like to think that maybe we’ve had some small part in making an effect on those statistics.”

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