When Dan Lietaert gets to a fire, the first thing he does is simple: Make sure everybody is out of the building.
“We want to worry about the fire and know that everyone is safe,” said Mr. Lietaert, a Sylvania Township firefighter who led first grade pupils from St. Joseph School on a tour of a portable fire safety house.
The trailer was taken to the school's parking lot for fire-safety instructions.
The house is a travel trailer outfitted with an interior similar to a small house.
It is used by the township to provide practical examples of how to act in case of a house fire.
After leaving the house, J.T. Schlembach said he was reminded that residents should touch doors before opening them.
If a door is hot it may mean a fire is on the other side, he said.
“You have to touch it to be sure it's cold, and then go out,'' he said.
Rachel Wainz said she was reminded to never play with matches and that every family should have two escape plans in case of a fire.
St. Joseph's students won the visit this week because they had the greatest participation in the fire department's “great escape” program.
Sally Koppinger, principal of the school, said that children are encouraged to discuss with their families different methods of getting out of the house in case of a fire.
Children from kindergarten to fourth grade were scheduled for the educational tour this week.
Mr. Lietaert told them that it is important for the family to have a meeting place somewhere nearby “so we can know everyone is out of the house and safe.''
Deputy Fire Chief Ray Segur said the department purchased the fire safety house for about $30,000 earlier this year.
It was purchased with funds raised by volunteers and partially paid members of the department.
He said that when the department was all-volunteer, there were events such as ice cream socials to help raise money for equipment.
Some of those funds were invested, the chief said, and that and other money saved by the volunteers organization was used to buy the trailer.
Although much of it has low ceilings, there is a simulated living room and kitchen on the first floor and a second-story bedroom.
There is a balcony off the bedroom with a metal fire ladder that can be available as a means of escape.
The chief said that most of the doors are electrically wired so they can become warm to the touch and warn youngsters that they should find another way out.
Areas of the house also can be filled with smoke, and it has a telephone that connects to a small control room where a firefighter answers and begins asking the same questions a dispatcher would.
The deputy chief said that it is often those small touches that get the attention of youngsters who are going through the house.
“Most of them are very attentive and we hope that some of the instruction stays with them, although we hope they never need it,” Mr. Segur said.
“I say it all the time, but if this can save just one child's life, it is more than worth it,'' he said.