By Jacob Mathias
The fire safety trailer used by Wood County Area fire departments has seen better days.
The fire safety trailer, a staple of school field trips to the firehouse and safety awareness days that teach fire prevention and emergency preparedness, is in need of replacement in Wood County as their current model has been used for nearly 20 years. The Wood County Fire Chiefs Association is in the process of fundraising for a state of the art fire safety trailer to be used by fire departments all over Central Wisconsin and a $20,100 donation Monday put them well over halfway there.
The proposed trailer is projected to cost $142,000 and Monday’s donation brings the current money raised to $80,000.
The donation was made by Canadian natural gas company Enbridge Energy that has an office in Vesper, Wis. Enbridge also donates their used vehicles to emergency service departments for their day to day use including a pickup truck the WRFD uses everyday.
“We take safety very seriously at Enbridge too,” said Mike Pahnke, technical supervisor for the Enbridge Vesper Office. “We take safety home with us. We hope next year you have this trailer and we’d like to have you out at our family safety day.”
Grand Rapids Fire Chief Don Bohn said some additional donations are in limbo due to fiscal year limitations or waiting on corporate board decisions but more funds are on the way. Sponsors will receive recognition on various placards attached to the new trailer.
“We’re getting close. We’ve got some significant funds already and more coming in,” said Bohn. “We’re looking for some corporate sponsorship to make this a reality.”
The new state-of-the-art safety trailer will be built by New York-based BullEx, a manufacturer of fire and workplace safety training equipment.
Bohn said the new trailer will be more accessible to everyone including adults and those in wheelchairs.
“The one we have is more geared for just children,” said Bohn. “If you go in it, it’s two fairly short floors. It’s geared for the children where the new one is adults all the way up.”
The new trailer will have more realistic smoke and fire simulations as well as laser simulated fire extinguishers for more interactive training. The trash can or oven may start simulating flames and if you point the laser fire extinguisher at it and use it correctly, the flames will die down. A severe weather simulator is also included which teaches safety in situations from light rain to hurricane situations.
“This here’s going to give them a real feel of what its going to really be like,” said Mike Szwajkowski, a captain with the GRFD. “Fire safety’s an unknown but the more we give fire safety the more house fire’s we’re preventing.”
The Fire Chiefs Association expect 100,000 visitors to the trailer every year.