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Homewood Fire Department holds fire safety demonstrations at open house

Homewood firefighter-paramedics Matt Moran, Edgar Serna and Shawn Santos get ready to put out the fire in the demonstration room
that was unprotected by sprinklers. (Nick Ulanowski/H-F Chronicle)

The Homewood Fire Department held an open house on Saturday, Oct. 14. The fire station was packed with community members, display tables and demonstrations on fire safety. 

In an outside demonstration, two replicas of a living room were set on fire. One had a protective sprinkler system and the other didn’t.

The rooms were enclosed on all sides except for the front. They were about the size of a small bathroom and contained a few pieces of wooden and cushioned furniture. On the top of the left side enclosure were the words “Unprotected” in red letters. On the left side enclosure, “Fire Sprinkler Protected” was displayed in red letters. 

Community members took pictures with Sparky, the Homewood
Fire Department’s mascot, at the open house on Oct. 14.
(Nick Ulanowski/H-F Chronicle)

Homewood firefighter-paramedic Kevin Wake talked to the crowd as the Homewood firefighter-paramedics Matt Moran, Edgar Serna and Shawn Santos stood nearby in protective uniforms and fire department gear.

Within a few minutes, the unprotected room was engulfed in flames. The audience murmured and kids yelled in excitement as the furniture burned and smoke billowed out. Moran, Serna and Santos put out the fire with a hose.  

A fire formed in the Fire Sprinkler Protected room as well, but the furniture didn’t start burning for about ten minutes. After the furniture caught fire, the sprinkler reacted to the heat of the flames and enough water came down from the ceiling to extinguish them. 

Wake stressed that even if the sprinkler appears to have completely extinguished a fire, the fire department should still be called to inspect the building.

“Regardless of how much water you get in there, there could still be an ember that’s still growing,” Wake said.

It’s required by fire safety codes for businesses in Illinois to have sprinklers, Wake said. He’s hoping the demonstration will encourage more people to install sprinkler systems in their homes.

Firefighter-paramedics Richard Qualter, left, and Dave Vitolka demonstrate
how to perform CPR. (Nick Ulanowski/H-F Chronicle)

“It actually does an amazing job of stopping 90% of the damage that may happen,” Wake said. 

A sprinkler will minimize the amount of char – meaning black marks left over on the walls and furniture – and the water damage from when the fire department puts out the fire, Wake said.

The display tables inside the open house included but weren’t limited to a free hot dog stand, Homewood Veterinary Care and information tables about first aid, Halloween safety and kitchen safety.

Attendees took pictures with Sparky, the Homewood Fire Department’s mascot, and inside of a parked firetruck. The fire truck’s compartments were open to show the department’s supplies — such as air packs, the fire hose and the supplies used to cut people out of cars. The truck contains 750 gallons of water, according to department officials.

Homewood firefighter-paramedic Dave Vitolka had a CPR dummy and an automated external defibrillator, demonstrating to adults and teenagers how to perform CPR. He told the younger kids to just dial 911.  

Vitolka said the AED is “not that hard to use. You just got to follow the prompts.”

On a long brown carpet, firefighter-paramedic Joseph Exline showed kids what to do if your home is on fire. 

“We’re going to crawl underneath the smoke to find our bedroom door,” Exline said.

Kids stopped, dropped and rolled on a red mat next to the carpet. At the end of the carpet, there was a hose and two large teddy bears. Kids played with the hose and carried the teddy bears to safety.

“When you stop and drop, cover your face with both hands. So, you can protect your eyes, your nose and your mouth. That way you can still see and breathe a little bit if there’s still some smoke,” Exline said.

Metal is a conductor of heat. Exline said to inspect the door with the back of your hand before touching it. 

“If we get a little bit of a burn on the back of our hand, we can still use the front,” Exline said.

Many bedroom windows aren’t on the first floor, and he advised kids to only exit windows with the fire department’s help. 

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