On July 2nd, 2010, a townhome caught fire in Hamilton Square, a condominium community located in Kirkland’s Totem Lake Neighborhood. The accidental fire started in the motor/electrical wiring of a resident’s hot tub. The back of his home and roof were destroyed, displacing the homeowner for months, while his townhome is repaired.
Resident Elaine Cummins responded by organizing a “Fire Fair” designed to:
• Reassure any children who may have been traumatized by the fire • Teach foreign born residents recommended American fire response • Teach all residents fire safety tips for the home • Interest residents in disaster preparedness • Recruit neighbors for upcoming fire safety/disaster preparedness training • Strengthen neighbor relations
Kirkland Fire Department agreed to provide an incident debriefing, fire extinguisher demonstration, fire engine tour and fire prevention training. Evergreen Hospital Medical Center, PSE, and the Hamilton Square homeowners’ insurance company, volunteered to staff booths with additional safety information. Spanish and English flyers were drafted, then edited by the City. Hand-outs from the participating organizations were collected for distribution to adults and children. A barbecue and potluck were planned for the dinner-time event. Helium balloons were purchased and signs and flyers were created to remind residents to attend the fair.
The event took place from 5:00-7:00 p.m. on July 27th, 2010. Nine City staff members were involved, as well as one representative from each of the other participating organizations. 45% of the residents contributed food, utensils and furniture.
The educational activities included, in the following order:
• Fire debriefing for kids and adults outside the burned home • Live fire extinguisher demonstration by Firefighters • Live fire extinguisher practice for adults • Fire engine tour for children and adults • Adult discussion regarding fire prevention and response • Introduction to Map Your Neighborhood and CERT programs • Disaster preparedness tips • Distribution of sign-up sheets to attend community MYN training in August and to receive a free dryer vent cleaning via the homeowner’s association
During the adult discussions, teenagers led the younger children in games and making a thank-you video for the participating organizations.
As a result of this event, the community:
• Now understands what caused the recent fire in the neighborhood • Feels safer having learned valuable fire prevention tips and techniques • Better understands the need to be prepared for emergencies/disasters • Has strengthened relationships among neighbors • Is motivated to do more in the way of prevention, as a community • Appreciates the participating organizations for taking its concerns seriously and dedicating staff time and equipment to assisting neighbors increase their safety
Ms. Cummins sent a follow-up message to the City, with the following: “Thanks again for the stellar work on our neighborhood fair. The feedback was great and the neighborhood really appreciated your presence and information.”
Photos courtesy Kirkland Fire Department. Photos depict Event organizers manning a booth, Firefighters Doug Tomczak and Ken Weihs demonstrate fire extinguisher use to residents, and Firefighter Dustin Smith gives fire engine tour to residents.