Fire kills an average of 3,500 people in the United States every year, according to a recent report from the U.S. Fire Administration.
It's a statistic that echoes in the mind of Greencastle Fire Chief Bill Newgent as he looks for ways to educate the public on the importance of fire safety.
"It's all about awareness," he said in announcing this year's third annual community open house at the Greencastle fire station.
Adults and children who come to the station from 3-6 p.m. on Thursday, May 4 will be able to take part in games, food and other educational activities revolving around the theme of fire safety, as well as look inside the fire trucks, tour the station, or go through the Smoke House.
"It's not only for adults but particularly for the children," said Lou Fontaine, president of the Friends of the Greencastle Fire Department. "If we can make them aware now, it will carry them well into the future."
In addition to education, Newgent says the open house is important because it gives the public a chance to see their tax dollars at work.
"I think it's important to promote our facility and let the public see what the fire department has to offer," he said. "Really, this is the community's equipment."
A new addition to this year's event will be a black and white spotted pup named Sparky who rides around the station in a little red fire truck. The Friends of the Fire Department recently purchased the $10,000 remote-controlled dog for the fire department as a means to educate children about fire safety.
Firefighters say the dog is bound to be a hit with small children who are attracted to his animated features and flashing lights. Last year, Greencastle borrowed a dog for the open house from another fire department.
Fontaine said he believes that despite efforts to educate the public about fire safety, many people still fail to fully understand.
The fire administration reports that there are nearly as many residential homes that do not have smoke detectors as those that do. Statistics show that the likelihood of someone dying in a fire increases significantly in home where there is no smoke detector.
For that reason, the Greencastle Fire Department, through the support of the Friends group, is giving away free smoke detectors to anyone who needs one at the open house.
In 2005, they gave away approximately 400 detectors during various events and promotions. Newgent said residents should have at least one smoke detector mounted on every floor of their home.
"We will give them no questions asked," Newgent said.
For more information about the open house, call the fire department at 653-3100. It is free and open to anyone.