The Springdale Fire Department invested nearly $45,000 into its fire safety trailer since first purchasing it nearly two decades ago.
After realizing it wasn’t financially reasonable to continue investing money in its upkeep, leaders in the department decided it was time to upgrade, and they dipped into their general education fund to purchase an inflatable safety house.
“We teach them, multiple families at a time or one family at a time, how to go through and do a fire safety drill in their home,” said Captain Matt Bagley.
The safety house resembles a bouncy house, but it doesn’t feature inflatable floors. It contains three rooms: a kitchen, living room and bedroom. Those who go through the house will see depictions of familiar items that can cause fires when used improperly, including an oven, stove and candles. At the end of a fire safety lesson, one is instructed to jump out of a window toward safety, which comes in the form of a blow-up pad.
“It’s a lot more cost effective, it’s a lot more versatile for cold weather and things like that,” Bagley said.
The department spent $8,500 on the inflatable, which was created by the Boulder Blimp Company, known for creating floats used in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. For comparison, the department spent $27,684 on the initial startup of the old prop, and the Washington County fire marshal bought a safety trailer for $75,000 in 2015, Bagley said.
Taxpayers won’t pay extra for the prop, as the department is moving over money from its general education fund to pay for it. The fund typically is used to pay for items like coloring books, stickers and other free items handed out in Springdale private and public schools.
Bagley said firefighters hope to partner with community businesses to help raise money to pay for a trailer and other transport supplies. At the moment, the department has not purchased a proper mechanism through which to move the safety house. If nobody steps up as a sponsor, administration will simply continue to move money from the education fund, which would make the payoff process take five to seven years, Bagley said.
Still, the tentative plan is to unveil the house during Springdale’s “National Night Out” during the first week of August.
“We’d like that to be our launch point to get this thing out there, have a grand unveiling, get kids and families involved to come in and see it,” Bagley said.
Once the safety house is able to be properly transported, it will be available to use in schools and events, even in gyms, which wasn’t possible with the old trailer.
Those interested in partnering with the Springdale Fire Department to sponsor the prop can email MBagley@SpringdaleAR.gov or call 479-751-4510, Bagley said.