Teaching safety with fire

CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson Melrose elementary students stood about 100 yards from a burning house Thursday, part of a fire safety demonstration.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Popping and crackling sounds filled the crisp morning air as flames jetted through collapsing windows and dark smoke colored the sky.

Firefighters moved to and fro, dousing hot spots and soaking nearby grass as dozens of rosy-cheeked youngsters bundled in hoods and gloves stood nearby, eagerly watching and pointing as the stucco house met its fiery demise.

It was an unique opportunity for fire safety education for the children and training for firefighters, Melrose fire officials and school personnel said.

The house, located on school property was abandoned and in need of demolition. The firefighters, eager to conduct live fire training, seized the opportunity, Melrose Fire Chief Keith Jacobs said.

Jacobs said his wife, a teacher at Melrose Elementary School, helped coordinate Thursday’s burn so students could benefit as well.

“The school wanted it burned, and we thought we would use it as an educational (opportunity),” Jacobs said.

“It just worked out good for all the kids,” he said as the last class headed back to the school after having their photo taken in front of the blaze.

Her pink hood bundled so tightly only her eyes and nose were visible, 6-year-old Gracie Sanchez said she enjoyed getting to watch the house burn.

“I liked it,” she said, her voice muffled by her thick coat.

Fourth grade teacher Jody Boyd said the visual lesson of seeing the house burn had a strong impact on her students, helping them understand how severe a house fire can be.

“We’re using it as a chance to tell them all the dos and don’ts in the big fires,” she said.

Students from preschool to sixth grade were included in the lesson, she said.

“They loved it,” said Assistant Fire Chief Scott Morris, explaining students were given presentations on fire safety in the school before they were taken outside to see the house fire in person.

And the training was beneficial, he said, giving firefighters an opportunity to exercise communication procedures, structure entry techniques and fire control skills.

“It was multi-purpose. It’s good for us. We don’t get to see a lot of fires like bigger cities do,” Morris said.