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May 24, 2013

Firefighters spark blaze for OHS safety event

By Denise Richardson Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — Firefighters built an 8-by-8-by-8-foot structure, added a bed, some furniture and shredded paper, then set the room ablaze.

Flames spread quickly, consumed bedding, paper and furniture, and the fire rose up the walls. Curls of black smoke obscured the room and its contents before crews hosed down the conflagration.

The 20-minute lesson featuring a mock dormitory room fire was to remind Oneonta High School seniors about fire prevention and safety.

Oneonta firefighter Ronald Wamsley asked the students if they could feel the radiant heat from the fire, which was about 40 feet away.

“When an alarm goes off in your room, don’t stay,” Wamsley told students. “People have died in their dorm rooms — you can Google it.”

Traditionally, firefighters present programs to elementary pupils.

On Thursday, Fire Department Capt. James Maloney said he was concerned that high school students be reminded about the dangers of fire as they embark on life after high school, and live in dormitories or apartments.

“Big fires can happen quickly,’’ Ben Gollin, 17, of Oneonta, said after watching the demonstration.

The demonstration on school grounds Thursday followed a lecture earlier in the week. Lessons cautioned them not to accumulate papers, overload electrical cords and to leave buildings when alarms sound, they said.

“If you hear a smoke detector go off, get out of the room immediately,’’ senior Michael Moran, 18, said.

In January, students in a dormitory at the State University College at Oneonta were displaced after a fire caused by an overloaded electrical power strip. No one was hurt. 

Nancy Osborn, Oneonta High School principal, said Thursday that firefighters first offered the program at the high school last year. The realism of the demonstration enhances awareness about the need for fire safety, she said.

Patricia Puylara, an OHS teaching assistant, agreed.

Her daughters attend a college that had multiple fire drills this year, Puylara said. But when another student in their suite was cooking and a fire started, her daughters commented that they couldn’t believe how fast the blaze spread.

Thursday’s demonstration was a valuable lesson to help prepare students for times they will be beyond the warning earshot of parents, she said.

“It makes them more aware,” she said. “It’s a phenomenal idea.”