A 2014 tragedy boosted fire training for kids, and Hamilton officials want to improve it with a new ‘house’

The Hamilton Fire Department has submitted an application to fund the purchase of a new Fire Safety House. If the grant application is successful, this will replace a safety house that Hamilton Firefighters built and have been using for the past 25 years.

The Fire Safety House is used to provide first-hand training to students about what to do if a fire breaks out. The training was ramped up following a tragedy in 2014, when shortly before Christmas, Alex Flores-Ortiz, 7, and his sisters, Siclali Flores-Ortiz, 10, and Yesenia Flores-Ortiz, 12, died in a Hamilton house fire. Fire officials responded to a total of five fires — including the fatal fire — at various homes the Flores family lived in. And of those five fires, at least two appeared to have involved children playing with matches.

MORE: After tragedy, students learn about fire safety in Hamilton

Local schools have requested the fire department wheel out its Fire Safety House to provide training to students, and Fire Chief Mark Mercer said he is hoping to secure the funds to keep the program going.

He said the grant application is for $78,000 and Hamilton’s cost will be approximately $3,700. The new house is designed to reach a wider age range, adding middle school and the aging adult population.

“We have had great success in delivering training to preschool and grade school students, and we have used our current house as much as possible, getting a great value for the investment from our community and firefighters who worked on the project,” Mercer said. “It has been supported by our community with supplies and materials for maintenance and repair. Last year, it suffered a broken axle as we nearly finished the fire prevention month schedule.”

Mercer applauded the efforts of Hamilton Paramedic Tony Robertson and Deputy Chief Ken Runyan, adding that they took the lead in developing and completing the grant application.

He said the fire prevention program will save lives.

“Fire prevention is an important task, though the results are difficult to measure since a fire that is prevented is never seen,” Mercer said. “Hamilton has dedicated resources to developing trainers to deliver the fire safety messages to as many people as possible.”

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