Garrettsville – Fire is a very real danger at home, at work or along the highway. Cooking, cigarettes, wood stoves, propane heaters, and other everyday appliances can spark a flame that quickly spreads out of control. Would you know how to put out a fire in such an emergency? If your initial bucket of water or smothering attempt fails to suppress the flames, do you have a fire extinguisher on hand, and do you know how to use it?
“Most people don’t know how to use a fire extinguisher, and wind up utilizing only half of the fire suppressant material when they try,” says Fire Chief David Friess. That’s why the Garrettsville-Freedom-Nelson Joint Fire District and the Garrettsville Firefighters Association partnered with Mark Russell of Ellerhorst Russell Insurance Agency of Garrettsville and Auto-Owners Insurance to purchase a $10,000 laser fire extinguisher simulator to train local residents, business owners, educators and emergency response personnel on the proper, effective use of fire extinguishers… at no cost.

The fact is, fire extinguishers effectively put out 80% of all fires, according to the Fire Extinguishing Trades Association and Independent Fire Engineering and Distributors Association. When fire extinguishers are not available due to being blocked, missing or depressurized, the results can be deadly, catastrophic and costly. More than 600 times a day, fire extinguishers put out fires in non-residential structures in the United States and many more around the globe.

Researchers from the Department of Fire Protection Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and the Fire Protection and Safety Engineering Technology Program at Eastern Kentucky University found that 75 percent of novices were able to safely extinguish a simulated fire with an extinguisher. But with only minimal training, 98 percent of volunteers were able to safely extinguish a fire.

Russell wanted to help increase the odds of success when members of his community are facing a fire, by providing access to training beforehand. Russell’s family has been affiliated with the fire department since his father served as former chief. Russell himself was previously captain of the fire department, and now he has nephews on the force. So it was natural for him to look for a community outreach project that would aid in fighting fires. He worked with regional salesman Jim Okane of Auto-Owners Insurance to bring the BullEx Fire Extinguisher Simulator to the local fire station. The portable, state-of-the art laser simulator can be useful at the fire station and out in the community for years to come, as it can be upgraded and expanded over time, Russell says.

Set up like a video game of sorts, the laser fire extinguisher is the ‘game controller’ and the simulated fire on the portable screen is the ‘game board.’ Users can be trained to use the extinguisher effectively for different levels and types of fires. The community can benefit from a free demonstration at the fire station on Saturday, April 1, during the Safety Forces Second Annual Crafters Fundraiser, 1-4pm at 8035 Elm Street. In order to request a training session for your company, group or event, call Chief Friess at (330) 527-4050.

Pictured above from left to right: Nancy Rollin – Ellerhorst Russell Ins., Jim O’Kane – Auto Owners Regional Sales Manager, Caitlin Lawless – Ellerhosrst Russell Ins., Kim Bell – Ellerhorst Russell Ins., Mark Russell – Ellerhorst Russell Ins., David Friess and Kevin Sponaugle – Garrettsville Freedom Nelson Joint Fire District.