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Palm Beach Gardens Fire Rescue unveils house fire simulator

Innovative trailer aims to train kids, adults
Posted: 7:51 PM, Jul 17, 2018
Updated: 2018-07-18 00:24:47-04

Palm Beach Gardens fire rescue just got a new toy. Or rather, a life-saving piece of equipment that will help them better educate kids and parents on how to properly escape a home when there is a fire.

It's called the Mobile Public Education Trailer and it’s the only one of its kind in Palm Beach County.

The department just received it last month and have been outfitting it with all kinds of gadgets to simulate how you can respond to a kitchen fire and even escape when crisis strikes. Using heat, simulated smoke, lights, sounds and alarms -- the trailer is controlled through iPads and remotes so that fire crews can properly train the public and simulate real-life scenarios.

We followed along as PBG Fire Rescue demonstrated the trailer for staff at city hall, including little Roman Caro. He's the first child to test out the simulator.

Roman was taken into a room, decorated and set up to look like the average child's bedroom. Fire inspector Alejandro Castillo guided Roman through the process.

“A fire’s going to start outside, OK?" he said, activating the simulated smoke through the power outlet, vents and under the door.

The doors are rigged with heat so that firefighters can teach kids and adults how to properly check for the presence of a fire.

“You’re going to put the back of your hand starting from the bottom, and you’re gonna feel and go up," Castillo told Roman, instructing him not to open it.

Roman's mother, Krista, is able to watch the training from afar, thanks to cameras and a large TV screen outside the door.

“I don't think a lot of parents are teaching safety to their kids at home. They just assume kids know what to do," she said.

Before he escapes the room, Roman is instructed to grab a towel.

“You’re going to put it under the door and stop all that smoke from coming in," said Castillo. "That stops the smoke and gives him a little bit of time to exit."

Children are then taught to grab a toy and throw it out the window. That helps firefighters know there is someone is still in a room.

"As firefighters are doing a 360 around the house, they're looking on the ground for things like this. That will tell that there's somebody in this room," said Castillo.

Roman then carefully climbed out the window with the help of firefighters.

“At home, he had no idea. He thinks to run out the door but if the door is blocked, he’s stuck in his room," said Krista Caro.

Over in the kitchen, Fire marshal David DeRita is teaching proper kitchen safety.

“Never open an oven, because you’re letting in fresh air and it will create more fire," he said.

The kitchen has real appliances that are outfitted to dispense harmless theater-grade smoke. The microwave simulates what happens when you accidentally heat something containing metal. The oven and stove have lights and projections to simulate fire.

As added practice, the kitchen even has a fire extinguisher with a laser device, which "extinguishes" the flames on the stove. There is also a segment of the demonstration that goes over storm safety, complete with a "broadcast" for a dangerous storm. Firefighters also go over safety protocol for weather.

“This is muscle memory. We don’t want them to hesitate when a real fire alarm goes off," said DeRita.

Caro said this trailer is a life saver for families who want to stay proactive.

“It’s absolute peace of mind because it taught me something that I didn’t know either," she said.

The trailer cost $85,000 -- money the fire department said the city set aside in its budget because they saw an importance in having the trailer.

The fire department plans to take the trailer to a summer camp to start to kick off it's demonstration to the public --  and soon, churches and schools across the area.