After tragedy, students learn about fire safety in Hamilton

Hamilton firefighters gave a fire safety presentation to students at Brookwood Elementary on Wednesday, Oct. 26. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
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Hamilton firefighters gave a fire safety presentation to students at Brookwood Elementary on Wednesday, Oct. 26. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

There was a report of a fire at the corner of Safety Lane and Emergency Street on Wednesday morning on the grounds of Brookwood Elementary school. Luckily for all of those on hand, it was only a test and a training opportunity to teach more than 250 students about fire safety.

Shortly before Christmas in 2014, Alex Flores-Ortiz, 7, and his sisters, Siclali Flores-Ortiz, 10, and Yesenia Flores-Ortiz, 12, died in a Hamilton house fire. The Journal-News exclusively learned that fire officials responded to a total of five fires — including the fatal fire — at various homes the Flores family lived in. And of those five fires, at least two appeared to have involved children playing with matches.

The cause of the fatal fire is still undetermined.

Deputy Fire Chief Ken Runyan was joined by Fire Investigator, Trevor Snider, Lt. Jeff Roberts and firefighters Chuck Smith, Jake Schaffer and Tyler Larsh at the school on Wednesday to teach the students what to do if a fire breaks out in their home and to pass along fire safety lessons.

Runyan gathered the students together inside and showed off all of the bells and whistles of a firefighter’s suit as he had Schaffer showed the students how to escape a smokey environment.

The lessons of fire safety and saving a life were on display inside, but outside was the Safety House where all of the lessons were applied.

“So what we do is we smoke up the first floor, and then they crawl out under it and go right out the backdoor. That way they get an understanding of what they are going to encounter if they open up their door and their house is on fire,” Runyan said.

He added that, “we’ve been doing it for the last two years – the Safety House in Hamilton has been around for almost 20 years. It set for a while because there was just a lapse in time when we couldn’t get it out there. We feel like it is an important service to the children. We have been able to get the Safety House back up in running thanks to some in kind donations that have been given to the fire department.”

Some of the faces looked as if they were crawling through a haunted house for Halloween, but the training produced knowledge and hands-on-experience.

“That is very important to be able to do this and it was good to see the kids go through this training,” Snider explained. “We don’t get the opportunity to do the full talk like we used to, but this still gives them the idea of the atmosphere and what to look out for.”

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