Half-size fire engine creates teaching opportunities
Published: July 12, 2012 11:59AM
Updated: October 30, 2012 11:31PM
image
Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune Jared Norton, Unified Fire, shows 4-year-old Michael Price, the new "Engine 911" in Herriman, Friday, June 8, 2012. Unified Fire Authority (UFA) unveiled it's new fire education tool at Herriman City’s Butterfield Park. Engine 911 (E-911) is a half-scale fire engine, modeled after UFA’s actual fire engines. Measuring 15 feet long, 5 ½ feet tall and 4 feet wide.

Magna • Its water tanks may not work, and its lights aren’t as bright as the ones on its big brothers and sisters, but a pint-size fire engine is making a big difference in Salt Lake County.

The half-size, bright red vehicle was completed in June and made its debut appearance at Herriman Days on June 9. Since then, the engine has visited five cities’ celebrations and will visit five more during July.

“It’s well received by the public. Kids and parents both love it,” said Jared Norton, community outreach coordinator for the Unified Fire Department.

Norton recognized that having a small fire engine would create teaching opportunities. Looking online at other regional fire departments, he saw pictures of one in Colorado that would do the trick.

“It’s exactly what I was looking for,” he said. He decided the fire department could build its own, and he started making specifications and getting bids.

What would have been an expensive project was made a reality because of donated labor and supplies. Unified Fire worked with Herriman Fire Department to complete the half-size fire engine in two years.

The engine has captivated kids and created opportunities for firefighters to have conversations with them about fire safety. The exchange also presents opportunities for conversations with parents about evacuation plans, replacing smoke detectors and where to store matches.

“It’s created a way for us to have conversations instead of give lectures,” Norton said.

The engine helps make firefighters more accessible to kids, he said. The youngsters are less intimidated and feel comfortable talking.

“I like it. It’s cool,” said David Egbert, 4, while climbing in and out of the engine. The lights flashing on top equally intrigued his sister Lexi, 20 months.

The children’s father, Ryan Egbert of West Jordan, agreed. “It’s a great idea. It’s a great educational tool.”

When school starts, the fire department will begin bringing the diminutive engine to elementary schools.

“It’s battery operated so we can give rides inside,” he said. “Also, when the water tanks get hooked up, we can mist the kids from the engine too.”

These kinds of activities help engage the kids in the assembly setting, he said.

“We want them to have good, fun experiences with the fire department so when they see us coming down the street the memory is triggered and they think about the things we talked about,” Norton said.

The engine also will be helpful at high schools, giving an opportunity to talk to teens not only about fire safety but also about the career of firefighting.

“Some say to us that they aren’t good at school and that they can’t do it,” Norton said. “But we want them to know that they don’t have to be great, they just have to try their hardest. That’s what we need, people who give their all.”

closeup@sltrib.com

The little engine that could

E911 was built by the Unified and Herriman fire deparments.

It was completed in June.

It will be used at school assemblies.

It creates conversations with kids and parents.