Towns hope to buy trailer to simulate fires

By Doug Fraser
November 21, 2013 2:00 AM

BREWSTER — Inside the trailer, spectators sit on bleachers watching participants as they navigate a kitchen that belches smoke while fire alarms sound or seek safety while lightning flashes and window blinds quake as a 60-decibel surround-sound system with a subwoofer and HD television bring storms and fires to life.

But this $79,000 trailer is not a thrill ride at a carnival. It’s an educational tool that local fire departments hope will help everyone from senior citizens to elementary school students learn how best to survive a potentially life-threatening calamity. It is also one of the Cape projects proposed for a state Community Innovation Challenge Grant.

Grant applications are due by Friday and towns across the Cape are readying proposals that provide regional solutions to a problem while saving money. The grants, to be awarded in February, are available to towns, regional school districts, planning agencies and counties. There is a $500,000 limit on individual awards.

This is the third year of the grant program, which awarded $4 million to 27 projects in 2012 and $2.25 million for the same number of projects this year. A regional request for $162,000 for signs, educational materials and electronic gear to help towns detect great white sharks near beaches received $50,000 from the program and was the only Cape project to get any funding this year.

Brewster Fire Chief Robert Moran had seen the educational trailer in action at a previous job and thought it helped bring a healthy dose of reality into what otherwise was a dry presentation.

“I can stand up in front of a class and show powerpoints, but this can really impact them,” Moran said.

There’s a lot more to a real fire than flames and the trailer can duplicate the chaos firefighters know only too well, he said, with deafening fire alarms going off, smoke curling along the ceiling, obscuring vision, forcing you to crawl along the floor looking for a second way out because the door you thought was your escape route proved hot to the touch, meaning there’s fire on the other side.

“We hope to reduce fatalities and injuries and property losses,” said Moran, who noted there were 5,000 schoolchildren in the districts covered by the six Lower Cape towns applying for the grant. The 39-foot-long trailer has a mock-up kitchen and bedroom and can be towed to schools, councils on aging and special events. The Eastham, Chatham, Harwich and Brewster selectmen already have approved signing on to the application, with Orleans and Wellfleet still to decide.

Towns are still readying their applications but at least one other proposal is ready. The Monomoy Regional School District wants more than $113,000 to set up a middle school after-school program at the Chatham Community Center. The proposal includes $16,000 in salaries, $54,000 for transportation, $30,000 for security enhancements and funding for furniture, computers and other supplies.

The Chatham Park & Recreation Department proposed the grant application as a way to get the program off the ground. Recreation director Daniel Tobin said there would be fees for participants that would make the program self-sustaining after the first year. The Chatham and Harwich selectmen unanimously endorsed signing the application.



See how the trailer works at

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