Students make 25 ‘doll houses’ for fire department training

By Ralph Echtinaw

Burn, baby, burn!

The St. Louis Schools wood shop students of Phil Maxwell aren’t used to making things that will go up in smoke, but that’s exactly what they’ve done, and firefighters across the state will benefit.

The students made 25 “doll houses” that the St. Louis Area Fire Department will donate to Michigan fire departments at a training event this weekend.

Doll House-2

“They literally are going to burn every single one of them down,” said Superintendent Jennifer McKittrick. “But it helps them learn how a fire may act or spread. All that hard work is going up in flames. But what a great partnership with the city.”

The structures are 49 inches tall, 32 inches wide and 16 inches deep. They’re held together with staples and glue, as no one expects them to have a long shelf life.

“It isn’t really a doll house, as such, but a small scale training prop referred to as a doll house,” said Fire Chief Rich Apps vial email.

Doll House-1

The doll houses have rooms with doors and windows with moveable panels. Opening or closing of these doors and windows “demonstrates how you can control or direct the flow-paths of smoke and/or fire,” Apps said. “It also demonstrates the importance of planning when and where to create ventilation openings during fire fighting efforts. Directing or controlling smoke and/or fire flow-paths can significantly impact occupant survival, firefighter safety and property damage.”

To see this training for yourself, head over to You Tube and search for “doll house fire training prop.” Apps said there are a number of videos available.

The newly constructed doll houses will be given away on Saturday, Jan. 25, at a Gratiot County fire chiefs training event, Apps said. More than 60 firefighters from around the state are signed up for this class. The intent is to provide each participating fire department with one doll house to take home and share what they have learned.

“On the surface, burning a doll house for firefighter training sounds pretty superficial, but in reality it is quite significant,” Apps said.

Phil Maxwell

Phil Maxwell

Maxwell’s wood shop benefits from the transaction, too, as the fire department donated $500 that was used to buy material for the doll houses and four jigsaws that should still be proving useful long after the doll houses have been reduced to ashes.

The 23 students in Maxwell’s wood shop now turn their attention to making furniture for the St. Louis public library.

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1 reply »

  1. A fire department that establishes performance standards or timed evolutions for engine and ladder companies and then trains utilizing those criteria will be better prepared to handle the varied problems that occur at an incident scene.


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