Fire Prevention training

Two Ottumwa firefighters help a Horace Mann second-grader down from the fire safety trailer. As part of Fire Prevention Week, the Ottumwa Fire Department has been visiting schools across the district to teach students basic fire safety.

OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa Fire Department is in the midst of its annual Fire Prevention Week at elementary schools across the district.

“Things are going well,” said Deputy Fire Chief Cory Benge. “The fire safety trailer really adds another life element to it.”

The fire safety trailer is an instructional tool the OFD borrows from the Fairfield Fire Department and Packwood Fire and Rescue. It resembles a small mobile home and is divided into two spaces: a simulated kitchen and bedroom complete with furniture, appliances and decorations.

Benge said the trailer has been valuable to the department’s instruction of fire safety because it puts the kids in an environment that resembles a home, which helps to ground the teaching with something they can relate to.

On Thursday they brought the trailer to Eisenhower, Seton and Horace Mann. The Horace Mann second-graders were eager to give it a go.

Students proceed through the trailer, beginning with a presentation in the kitchen area which covers basic kitchen fire safety with items like appliances, stoves and matches. From there, they went into the bedroom where they felt a door with a simulated fire behind it.

Then the fun began. The room began to fill with smoke, smoke detectors beeped, and the kids escaped through an open window. Firefighters stood outside to help them down the small rope ladder and the students ran back to their teacher, shrieking with laughter.

This year, the fire department is promoting two main safety tips: always have two ways out of every room and sleep with bedroom doors closed.

“There’s a lot of studies that show a closed door can do a lot to slow a fire,” said Captain Pat Short.

Short explained that a door won’t stop a fire completely, but when it’s paired with a working smoke detector, it can drastically improve somebody’s chance to escape. Ensuring that every room has two ways out only makes a person that much safer.

After they finished the drill, the kids were given goodie bags containing coloring books, colored pencils and other gifts.

Despite a few complaints about how the smoke smelled, the kids were all smiles and laughs as they watched their classmates clamber down the ladder.

Jack Langland can be reached at


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