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Wash. FD educates 10-year-old on high-rise fire safety, emphasizes importance of youth fire education

The girl had a lingering question after the fire department taught her school about fire safety: Where would she go to escape a fire on her second floor bedroom?

By Amanda Sullender
The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Quinn Whitley, a 10-year-old from Liberty Lake, had a lingering question after the fire department taught her elementary school about fire safety: Where would she go to escape a fire on her second floor bedroom?

“My friends were talking that they can get out of their house real easy right out their bedrooms,” Quinn recalled, “but then realized I was on the top floor, and how could I get out if fire was outside the door?”

After her family posted a video with her question on social media, the Spokane Valley Fire Department came to her bedroom to show her Tuesday. Someone like Quinn should keep low out of smoke, keep the lights on and open the window if unable to escape their room, said Sean Wagner , Spokane Valley Fire engineer. This allows the fire department to know someone is trapped on the second floor and to get a ladder to the window.

The advice is part of three things both kids and parents should keep in mind: Keep smoke alarms in every floor and in every bedroom, sleep with your bedroom door shut to slow the spread of smoke in case of fire and have an escape plan with two ways out of each room if possible.

After the demonstration, the fourth-grader said she was glad she got an answer.

“To realize that she had a question that was left unsettled and unanswered — to be able to come connect with her and answer that question, that’s great,” Wagner said.

When asked the question by her daughter, Jacklyn Whitley admitted she was not sure of the answer herself. That is why she put the video on social media.

“We wanted to see if anybody had an answer for us and were hoping to get our answer. And so it was really great to see how enthusiastic the fire department were to educate us,” she said.

Valley Fire Commissioner Patrick Burch said the video “melted” his heart.

“I’m sure there are a thousand kids who have the same questions recently,” he said, pointing to the recent Millwood house fire that killed two children.

The investigation continues, but a cigarette has been identified as the cause of the blaze that killed Maverick Ford , 7, and Gabriel Davis , 9.

Fire officials at the Whitley home speculated fire safety awareness could have given firefighters more time to save the children — noting the children’s doors were open and could have hastened the fire’s spread to their room.

“A closed door can be an effective barrier against deadly levels of carbon monoxide, smoke, and flames and may give you time to respond to the smoke alarm,” reads advice recommended by the fire department. “There can be a 900-degree temperature difference between a room with an open door and one with a closed door.”

Whitley said her daughter was unaware of the nearby house fire last month and it was not a factor in her inquiry.

Wagner said fire safety education among youth is “probably as significant as anything” the fire department does to prevent fire before it happens.

“Getting these kids young thinking about fire safety really just instills those foundational messages to them that are going to help keep them safe,” he said.


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