Shaler man, retired firefighter creates survival kits for children
After fighting a fire in which five children died, retired Pittsburgh firefighter Jim Wyzomirski wanted to help prevent another tragedy.
Wyzomirski, of Shaler, designed and created the WYZKIT Fire Survival Kit for Children. The kit — several years in the making — will be available to families in Shaler Township during fire company open houses and families in the Borough of Etna during that community's holiday celebration.
“It's finally going to get in the hands of the children where it's supposed to be,” Wyzomirski said. “It will be another tool for parents to keep their kids safe.”
Wyzomirski retired from the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire in 2010 as captain on the No. 8 Truck in East Liberty, and now serves as a volunteer member of the Cherry City Volunteer Fire Company.
In 2007, Wyzomirski was on the rescue team that responded to a house fire in Larimer and helped to recover the bodies of five young children who ultimately died in the fire. After the experience, Wyzomirski spent months looking up fire prevention information online in an attempt to determine what more adults could teach children about fire safety to prevent a similar tragedy.
While many fire prevention programs encourage children not to play with matches and “stop, drop, and roll,” Wyzomirski said often programs never take the next step.
“Kids die in a fire because they don't know what to do in a fire,” Wyzomirski said.
Each kit is designed for children age 5 to 12 and includes an instructional DVD and tool kit of items a child can use in the event of a fire, including a smoke detector for inside the child's room, a flashlight, a whistle to blow to help a firefighter find the child, a signal flag to wave outside a window and mallet to break a window if necessary.
“A lot of these little (tools) came from us firefighters and our equipment,” Wyzomirski said, noting that each firefighter has a flashlight on their suit and an alarm that goes off if a firefighter has been motionless for a specified period of time.
The DVD also gives families activities they should do together to prepare a child to respond in the event of a fire, such as being able to navigate their room without light, establishing escape routes and being able to open their window.
While the kits are available for purchase for $25 at Winschel's Hardware, at 346 Butler St. in Etna, seven local volunteer fire departments have purchased 100 kits each to give out for free to residents of their fire districts.
The kits will be available at all six Shaler Township fire houses during open-house events from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 23. Etna residents can visit the Etna fire house from 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 29. Proof of residency will be required.
“If just one kid is helped in the next 10 years or five years, it will be worth it,” Wyzomirski said.
Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or firstname.lastname@example.org.