Watch: Calif. FFs sing 'Don't Burn Down Your House' in viral educational music video
The rewritten version of "Burning Down the House" by the Talking Heads warns residents of common fire hazards
Napa Valley Register, Calif.
NAPA, Calif. — What does a 1980s Talking Heads song have in common with the Napa Fire Department?
A lot, if you've seen the new video that local firefighters and other staffers made and just posted online.
Called "Don't Burn Down Your House," the song and video is a clever parody of the Talking Heads' 1983 hit "Burning Down the House."
The vintage tune was tweaked and rewritten by Napa Fire Marshall Greg Fortune and Fire Inspectors Brandon Veyna, Jose Valenzuela, and Omar Galvan.
"We were looking for a creative way to get the message out" about fire safety "that hasn't been done before," said Fortune.
"Something that would be more eye-catching" than the typical public safety message, said Veyna.
Using just an iPhone and iMovie, the firefighters filmed a video of the "band" performing, accompanied by the Fire Department mascot Sparky on keyboards. Even department administrators Shuree Egloff, Donna Whitney, and Ana Garibay made an appearance, wearing matching fire turnout gear.
"It was definitely a collaboration," said Veyna.
Filmed in front of a run-down building wrapped by "caution" tape, with a concrete barrier and chain link fence, the location looks right out of a music video.
"All that caution tape and fencing was already there," Veyna explained about the background scene. "It was already Armageddon-ish. It was really, really perfect."
The team spent about three to four hours at the site, dancing and "playing" their instruments. Because the property is not open to the public, they didn't want to say where it was located, only that it is in Napa County.
Then, using a karaoke musical version of the original "Burning Down the House," Veyna dubbed in their own singing and lyrics. It turns out he has some experience — he has a B.S. in film/electronic arts from CSU Long Beach.
"Don't Burn Down Your House"
ORIGINAL SONG: Burnin' Down the House
ORIGINALLY PERFORMED BY: The Talking Heads
RENDITION PERFORMED BY: Napa Fire Prevention
"Ahh Watch out, keep yourself out of danger
Cool kiddies, learn how to prevent disaster
Here are some things you can try
So you don't burn down your house."
"Alright, let's start with smoke detectors
Test them, every month so they're effective
Never remove your smoke alarms
They alert you to get out."
"Now moving on do not get bored
Let's talk about extension cords
Don't ever use them with space heaters
Never under rugs or ran through walls
That's not how they should be installed
That's how they get overheated...fire!"
"Cooking you've gotta watch those hot pans
Hot flames and grease will burn you if you let them
Never turn your back on the stove
Don't burn down your house."
"If your family has a fireplace or sometimes cooks on the barbecue
They can have hot ash I'm not a liar
Always make sure that they are cold before throwing them out as old
Or your trash may burst into fire
Don't burn down your house."
"Accidents, yes they will sometimes happen
Evacuate, your house don't hide nowhere no slacking
Once your safe call 911
And stay out of the house."
"Now you have some tips to use so make a plan and be prepared
Ensure your family's protection
If you happen to forget these tips cool kids, then please do not despair
Just call Fire Prevention."
The band, known as the Fire Prev Boys and the Administrators, even adopted some elements from the original "Burning Down the House" video, including the opening, some dance moves and a floating head effect.
"It came together really, really well," said Fortune.
They spent about 20 to 30 hours on the project, which is part of their job as fire prevention educators, the men explained.
It seems to have worked. As of Wednesday, the YouTube video of the song has been viewed 12,000 times. It's also been shared on the Napa Fire Department Facebook page and other social media sites.
"We're so thankful for all of the folks out there that have seen it and are sharing it," said Fortune.
"That's incredible," he said. "Honestly, it gives me butterflies."
Fortune, who is also a musician, has played before live audiences for many years, but "I haven't seen this happen before" where a video becomes so popular.
"We're blown away by the response," he said. "It's shocking really, but in a good way."
"It snowballed into this amazing creation," said Veyna.
"You hope it will resonate with people, but we really didn't see this coming," said Fortune. "I thought, hey if we can get 100 people to look at this, wouldn't that be awesome?"
Apparently, the video message is already making a difference. Fortune gave the example of one friend who texted him after watching it. She didn't realize she wasn't using her space heater safely and quickly fixed the problem.
"How cool is that?" said Fortune. "That's exactly what we need and want to happen."
Fortune said the department was careful to add a disclaimer at the end of the video about using the Talking Heads music. "I hope that if somehow they were to hear about this they don't sue us," he said with a laugh.
"We were nervous about that. That's why we put the disclaimer at the end. But it's a great song and it lent itself perfectly" to their fire prevention message.
(c)2021 Napa Valley Register, Calif.