La Crosse, Holmen fire departments get safety simulator to teach people prevention

HOLMEN, Wis. (WKBT) — The La Crosse and Holmen area fire departments teamed up to get a new fire safety simulator to use as an educational tool across the two communities.

Fire departments do more than just put out fires — their mission includes making sure their communities are safe and educated.

“The idea is an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure, and so it’s really the idea of if we can prevent these things from happening in the first place were doing something right,” said LCFD Community Risk Educator Pat Corran.

“We can actually show you what it feels like with a fire that’s happening behind that bedroom door,” Corran said. “You can feel it, you can see that smoke coming through. That information is really going to sink in and grain into someone’s memory a little better. So I think just the immersive idea, I think that’s really important.”

The 26 foot, 8,000-pound trailer, which cost around $130,000, has a lot of features, all run with an iPad.

“Public outreach, public engagement, public education, it makes it a lot easier because we don’t require the staffing needs that we might have in the past,”Corran said.

JHB-Group, the company that built the trailer, employs a group of retired firefighters who wanted to think outside the box when it comes to fire safety and education.

“It’s always trying to do stuff different and kind of planning for the future so the stuff that we’re building is used in the long haul,” said JHBGroup CEO Christoper Gantz.

Children aren’t always engaged when it comes to fire safety, but the trailers change that, Gantz said.

“The old climbing out a window or smoking up a trailer isn’t as effective anymore, so we wanted to find a way to engage different audiences, different populations to really immerse them in the learning experience,” she said.

The fire departments don’t have an official date for when the new simulator will make a public appearance.

The departments intend to train all of their firefighters trained with it by the end of the year, and they hope to start educating people with it sometime early in the new year.

FEMA’S Fire Prevention and Safety Grant Program covered most of the cost, and local sponsors paid the balance.

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