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By Julia Baratta, Freelance Writer
BRONSON, MI ­— The Bronson Fire Department in Bronson, MI is a very busy group serving 192 square miles containing  several townships and the city of Bronson. They recently held a Fire Safety Day for the public with many fun activities and educational experiences.

All eight trucks from their fleet were on display for children to crawl into and examine. The equipment truck was open with all the tools exposed for the families to see what is used to fight fires. A ladder was sent up to show how high it reaches above the truck. Several engines were parked out by the street for the event with one of the firefighters clad in the full apparel required for fighting fires. The children were also invited to spray the fire hose at orange cones and see how many they could hit.

The local ambulance service was on hand with one of their vehicles opened up for inspection by the children and their families. Bronson Police Chief Stephen Johnson had a table full of information on being safe. Pizza was served during the event by the firefighters and members of their families, making  the connection to the community and the families that live in it.

While an enjoyable time was the expected outcome, the real purpose behind the Saturday festivities was educating the public on fire safety and caring for themselves and their families during a fire.

“Today’s fires, referred to as ‘modern fires’, burn much quicker than fires of years ago,” Bronson Fire Chief Scott Wilber said. “The older fires, ‘legacy fires’, consumed natural fibers such as wood and cotton which burn slower. Much of what is in our homes today is made of plastic and that is petroleum-based, causing the fire to burn faster.”

Research has shown that people have approximately 3-6 minutes to get out of a burning building today versus a home of yesteryear when the people had closer to half an hour to get out safely. Wilber promotes education in the elementary schools and open houses at the fire station. He feels that when the children are more informed, they have a better chance of helping themselves and others.

While the departments pride themselves on their speedy response times, they are limited to basic capabilities and time. When a call comes in, the members of the department leave their homes or jobs, rush to the station where they change into their gear, get the trucks going, and literally race to the fire. Though they may make good time, there is no way they can beat a 2-3 minute fire so Wilber encourages families to prepare themselves in case this situation happens to them.

First of all, he suggests that people shut their bedroom doors at night in order to keep smoke and fire out. Wilber strongly recommends teaching the children how to react in a fire and then to practice the process. Lastly, smoke detectors are an excellent way to help keep occupants of the house safe.

One of the most impressive of the displays at the open house was the Branch County Fire Prevention and Life Safety Trailer. This unit is set up for families to experience the steps to take when dealing with a fire. A phone is available that provides a real life experience of talking to a 911 operator. Various smoke detectors are displayed on the wall and explained. The last room represents a bedroom where the children are encouraged to touch the door (which gets very hot, representing a real consequence during a fire) and stay close to the floor. Fake smoke is piped into the room, giving a true feeling to the experience. They are then directed to open the window and exit through there to safety, completing the process to escape.

The trailer was purchased with donations from the communities that the four fire departments in the county serve. It is being appreciated throughout the county at various community events.

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