Fire sparks curiosity in kids, firefighter says

A Toronto Fire Department official says a child’s fascination with fire, if not dealt with properly, can result in disaster.

According to TFD firefighter Steve Doran, lighters and matches left around the home by parents, often end up in the hands of children and cause house fires.

“Kids have a curiosity with fire,” he said. “It is important to show them candles and even let them light them and blow them out. They get it out of their system.”

Insp. Jim Silverthorn agreed and said Fire Prevention Week is a good way to explain the dangers fire to children.

“The idea of it is to have … a week to remind everybody about important things in the home,” Silverthorn said. “Checking the batteries in smoke alarms and having escape plans are especially important.”

Fire Prevention week began in 1911 when the Fire Marshals Association of North America decided the 40th anniversary of the great Chicago fire should be used as a means to inform the public about fire hazards, prevention and safety.

Scarborough resident, Colleen Gilbert, brought three of her four children to take part in a fire safety presentation at Scarborough Village Recreation Centre on Oct. 7. The main objective of the presentation was to inform children of fire safety in ways they understand.

“I wanted to learn what we as parents can do to keep our children safe,” she said. “I also wanted my kids to get a chance to learn what fire fighters do and to not be afraid of them.”

Schools are able to request the presence of firefighters during fire drills and even invite them to the school to speak with children about fire safety.

“I worked for the Scarborough Fire Department and for children in Grades 2 and 5, we would put on a 45-minute presentation,” Doran said. “We’d go into the schools in our suits and let the kids see what they look like. They don’t do that anymore, but it can be requested I’m sure.”

Gilbert says she lives in a townhouse with three floors and plans to create and prepare her children.

“We are going to practise an escape plan and name a meeting spot so my kids know where to go if there is a fire,” she said. “It’s better to be safe”

Capt. Craig Bennett and Insp. Silverthorn of the TFD say when people are asleep they lose all sense of smell. Since smoke contains acid that burns the eyes and lungs, people are more at risk of dying of asphyxiation from the toxins.

“Most fire-related fatalities are a result of smoke inhalation. People who say they were awoken by the smoke, dreamt it,” he said. “The smoke will just put you in a deeper sleep until you end up expiring.”

Insp. Patricia McEdwards said children are more likely to wake up to a smoke detector that uses a familiar voice or emits a low- pitched alarm, as opposed to traditional smoke detectors that use a higher pitched sound.

“Children don’t generally wake up to the sound of smoke detectors, so they have developed a new voice-activated alarm that allows people to record their own voice,” she said. “You can also buy ones that have a generic voice and also have bright lights that flash.”