Olathe second-graders get hands-on lessons in fire prevention in Fire Safety House

OLATHE, Kan. -- First-responders are known for keeping our homes safe from fires.

Every spring, community heroes from the Olathe Fire Department turn into teachers with a classroom on wheels, giving second grade students in Johnson County basic lessons in fire prevention.

There’s no place like home — and home, as well as the people who live there, are worth protecting. The Olathe Fire Department Fire Safety House is like a classroom stuffed into a 30-foot trailer. On Thursday, second graders from Countryside Elementary School toured the house on wheels’ three rooms -- a kitchen, a living room and a bedroom -- getting vital lessons in fire prevention.

The beep of a garden variety smoke alarm seems to beep throughout the presentation, as a smoke machine is used to simulate the hysteria that can occur during a residential fire.

"Your nose goes to sleep," one Olathe Fire Department instructor said, stressing the importance of smoke alarms to group of fascinated children, who giggled in response.

The students trek from room to room learning about potential fire hazards they may have previously overlooked in their own homes, including dash rags kept too close to the burners on kitchen stoves and the inherent dangers of playing with matches and lighters.

"This is a hands-on learning experience," Carrie Miller, Olathe Fire Department learning specialist, said. "A lot of students practice fire drills at school, but when they go home, they never practice a fire drill in their own house."

Miller says she and her team of firefighters have taken the Fire Safety House to 37 schools during the ongoing school year. Miller says second grade is the perfect age for children to learn about fire prevention.

"They're very young," Miller told FOX 4 News. "They're at that age where they're really starting to grasp how important fire safety is. A lot of their parents at home get to learn from them."

Several groups of second graders toured the Fire Safety House on Thursday. The information they soaked up is worth sharing again.

"The kitchen was the most dangerous room in your entire house because the oven and the microwave, they both can catch on fire when you forget to put the water in your mac and cheese bowls or something," Hayden Gevedon, a Countryside Elementary School student, told FOX 4 News.

"(Smoke detectors) can detect smoke, and if they detect smoke, they go off," Landon Kendall, another of the school's second graders said.

Kendall and other children were amused by the Fire Safety House's attention-getting paint job, which featured a several slogans and sayings the firefighters worked into their lessons. Many of these first responders emphasized one of those slogans: the best smoke detector is one that works.

It's tough to quantify whether or not the Fire Safety Truck has made a difference in preventing residential fires. However, Olathe Fire officials say they’ve used the Fire Safety House since 2002, and each year, the number of calls to house fires has dropped. The Fire Safety House is due to make one final school visit for this year with a visit to Heatherstone Elementary School during the final week of May.