Firefighters' New Equipment To Teach Fire Safety

GULFPORT (WLOX) -- Fire safety experts estimate that only one percent of Americans know how to properly use a fire extinguisher. Now the Gulfport Fire Department is turning to technology to help get more people educated. Firefighters took their the lesson to a group of senior citizens on Thursday.

Emilia Shearer says she's had the same fire extinguisher in her home since 1969.

"I don't want to touch it because it might blow up in my face," she said.

Joseph Pilate also owns a fire extinguisher.

"I have one in the kitchen hanging right over the stove," he said.

Pilate said if the time ever came that he needed it, he would not know what to do with it.

Gulfport fire fighters say with a few pointers, people can feel confident using fire extinguishers instead of being intimidated by them. The department just bought new simulator equipment to make the learning process easier.

Lt. Gabriel Barnes said, "The old facilities we used to use was half of a barrel, put a little oil and gas in there torch it off. It would be real smokey and things like that. This is real easy to use and it's very effective."

Firefighters say extinguishers should be replaced every six years and checked monthly.

"What you have do is on occasion, you have to pick them up, turn them over and tap the bottom of the extinguisher to make sure the powder is not settling," said Lt. Barnes. "You also have to look at the gauge to make sure it's pressurized properly."

Emilia Shearer and other seniors citizens found out using a fire extinguisher wasn't as hard as they thought.

"I learned something, of course," sad Shearer. "Since 1969, I think that's the first time I've known how to handle that."

Firefighters say they're offering lessons using the new training simulator to families, schools, and civic groups. If you are interested, call the Gulfport Fire Department at (228) 865-5988.