State College

Alpha open house spreads the word on fire safety

Liam Richards, 6, tries out the headset and driver’s seat of one of the Alpha firetrucks during the Alpha Fire Company open house on Sunday, May 3, 2015.
Liam Richards, 6, tries out the headset and driver’s seat of one of the Alpha firetrucks during the Alpha Fire Company open house on Sunday, May 3, 2015. CDT photo

Alpha Fire Company was busy Sunday afternoon.

Volunteer firefighters used an aerial truck, fire hoses and other gear, but there wasn’t a fire and they didn’t have to travel far at all. The company was hosting its annual open house at the station on West Beaver Avenue.

“The prime reason is to spread the word of fire prevention,” longtime Alpha firefighter Richard Harris said of holding the event each year. “We like folks to see the type of equipment provided for fire safety and to spread the word in general.”

Visitors to the station could take a ride in the bucket of an aerial truck, check out an engine and axes, helmets and other equipment used by firefighters. Stations were also set up with information about fire prevention and other safety information.

A popular feature with kids was a unique dunk tank, where children got a chance to use a fire hose to dunk a firefighter in a tub of water.

While volunteers were spreading the word, they were prepared to respond to real flames if they spread elsewhere, Harris said. Some vehicles — an engine, tanker and another aerial truck — were positioned behind the station and ready to roll in case a call did come in, Harris said.

Another feature at the open house allowed guests to see and respond to smoke and fire. The Centre Region Fire Safety House featured a section designed to look like part of a house. Kids got to practice what to do in case a building they were in caught fire. The display was complete with simulated smoke.

A demonstration of residential sprinkler systems used in most apartment buildings and being installed in some homes was also part of that display.

Sprinkler heads are each fitted with a sensor designed to burst at 155 degrees. Alpha firefighters and Centre Region Code Administration fire inspectors Dave Felice and Tim Knisely ran a live demonstration of the sprinklers by setting a fire in a controlled environment in a separate section of the safety house.

The fire burned for about a minute before reaching the temperature and the sprinklers deployed, dousing the flames.

A National Fire Prevention Association survey conducted in California showed that the average cost of water damage caused by sprinkler systems was about $8,600, Felice said. In contrast, damage caused to buildings without the systems ran more than $80,000, he said.

The systems are also fairly cheap to install in homes and cost less than carpeting, Knisely said. Costs are about a dollar to a dollar and a half per square foot of space in a home. Even if the sprinklers don’t save a home, they would provide enough time for people inside to escape, he added.

“Things will dry out. They will not unburn,” Felice said.

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