Pulaski bonfire: What can we do to prevent something similar?

De Pere FD chief talks fire safety

Pulaski bonfire: What can we do to prevent something similar?

Jackie Cummings, Reporter

By now everyone has heard about the Pulaski bonfire on Oct. 14 that went horribly wrong, but what can we do as a community to avoid such an incident to happen here?

Brett Jansen, the Battalion Chief of the Fire Department, spoke with the Crimson Aviator about his perspective of the scene and how we can localize what happened for the De Pere district.

Q: What was your reaction when you heard about the incident in Pulaski?

A: This is a very shocking and tragic incident. When I heard of the incident, I was initially shocked by how many people were injured at a bonfire and then felt sadness for the injured and their families and what they are going through.

Q: Has anything like the incident with Pulaski ever happened in De Pere?

A: I have worked for De Pere Fire Rescue for 16 years and I have never been on an incident that involved a bonfire and multiple people injured from it.

Q: What is your plan of action if something like that happens?

A: De Pere Fire Rescue has operational plans in place to respond to multiple casualty incidents involving medical conditions. Our members train on how to respond to and handle these types of incidents when they do happen. The key to handling an incident like this is first prevention, through fire safety programs and education. If an incident does occur, early activation of the 911 system by someone at the incident is very important for us to respond and request the additional resources needed to handle the number of people involved. Early activation to the hospital systems is important to all the appropriate amount of medical care needed to treat the injured.

Q: Should we have fire safety courses every year like ALICE?

A: Fire safety is an important topic in which the fire department teach children at a young age to prevent fires and injuries. De Pere Fire Rescue goes out to our community schools every fall to talk and teach about fire safety from 4k to 2nd grade. It is still important for families to keep discussing fire safety topics as they get older. The NFPA provides a great amount of information on their website on fire safety topics. Fire safety education needs to be continued throughout the community for the prevention of fires and injuries. De Pere Fire Rescue provides training to our community through home safety visits, smoke detector installs, our annual open house, business fire prevention inspections, and community events. Everyone in the community must do their part to keep our community safe and prevent fires and injuries.

Q: Why do you think that we don’t have follow-ups?

A: After the 2nd or third grade, we expect them to know the concepts of fire safety, how to stop, drop and roll, and get low in a fire. As kids get older, they mature. We also don’t want to teach kids repetitive information and have them get bored with it. 

Q: What are your tips for maintaining a fire/bonfire?

A: We want to make sure we are always safe while having a recreational fire. We want to keep the fire manageable, small, and always in control. The City of De Pere recreational fire ordinance is that no recreational fire shall not have a diameter larger than 2 feet and the fire may not extend more than 2 feet above the pit and cannot be closer than 15 feet from any building, structure, shed, garage, or any other combustible material. Only burn ordinary combustible materials like wood and paper. Do not burn rubbish, garbage, recyclable items, rubber, plastics, petroleum-based materials, or flammable liquids. It is always a good idea to have some kind of suppression equipment immediately available to control a recreational fire. Examples would be a fire extinguisher, hose, or bucket of water.

If you have any questions please contact the Fire Department: (920) 339-4091 (non-emergency)

De Pere Fire Rescue website