To withstand a fire

As a second-story bedroom filled with smoke, third-graders from Valley View Elementary School escaped to safety by crawling out a window and down a ladder.

The students were in the Kids Safety House — an educational trailer that has an interior designed to look like a small home — when the plumes of smoke started to fill the bedroom.

Nick Dalton-Pawle, an actor who was participating in the fire prevention program, coached the students on what to do.

He encouraged them to crouch on the ground to find clean air to breathe, and reminded them to test the window for the presence of fire by touching it with the back of their hand before exiting.

“You never want to breathe smoke in a house fire,” Dalton-Pawle reminded them.

The simulated fire — the smoke was created by burning corn syrup — was a chance for the students to try the fire safety techniques they'd learned the hour before during a fire prevention assembly.

“They immediately get to put into practice what they learn,” he said.

The Children's Burn Foundation of Van Nuys sponsors the fire prevention programs at schools in the Glendale Unified School District, and works with the Glendale Fire Department to run the fire simulation in the educational trailer.

Before entering the trailer, second- and third-graders at Valley View watched three members of a theater group called L.A. Troupe act out a skit in which they reviewed the fire safety plan for a fictitious home.

Students were reminded to check smoke detectors on a monthly basis, decide on a “safety spot,” where they would meet family members in the event of a fire, and to “Stop, Drop and Roll” if their clothes were ever to catch on fire.

“The fire breathes air just the way we do,” said actress Koni McCurdy, who played the protagonist in the fire skit.

After learning the dos and don'ts of fire prevention, students toured through the trailer.

In the trailer's kitchen, students were asked to point out the fire hazards they noticed.

Maggy Rivera, 8, announced that there was a box of matches left near the stove.

Christina Sahakian, 8, noticed that the handle of a pan on the stove had been left pointing outward, creating a potential for danger.

“Never leave the pan handle toward you,” 8-year-old Eric Keshishyan said.

The students then trouped up the stairs to the bedroom, where they encountered the fake fire.

Using the trailer and the simulated fire was an effective way to engage children on the topic of fire safety, because it is a hands-on experience, said Glendale firefighter Pat Dawson, who assisted the students as they exited the trailer.

“It's not just reading it out of a book,” he said.


?ANGELA HOKANSON covers education. She may be reached at (818) 637-3238 or by e-mail at angelahokanson@latimes.com.

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