Larry Zimmerman has an idea.
In other parts of Long Island, he has seen fire departments and municipalities maintain mobile trailers resembling small houses — each complete with kitchen, living room, and bedroom — that are taken to schools, camps, and community events to teach kids what to do if a fire breaks out at home. These units are specially equipped with appliances, smoke machines, and heaters that can create conditions mimicking the signs of danger.
“It’s not just stop, drop, and roll,” said Mr. Zimmerman, who retired five years ago after a 35-year career as a builder in East Hampton. “The kids need to learn.”
He pointed out that it can also reinforce fire safety for adults, particularly older adults who might be vulnerable. “I don’t know if I would know what to do if a fire broke out on my stove,” he said. “I keep a fire extinguisher by the sink, but I don’t know if most people do that.”
Mr. Zimmerman is raising money to cover the cost of building such a trailer here, plus money to train adults on its use and how to maintain it. He estimates needing at least $150,000. The nonprofit East Hampton Village Foundation has agreed to act as a fiscal sponsor to collect donations for the project, which has been dubbed Larry’s Fire Safety House.
Soon after he moved here, Mr. Zimmerman recalled, there was a house fire in Springs in which a mother and daughter died. He hopes to avoid tragedy through education.
“Because of its size and lifelike features, it creates an environment that allows children to learn,” he wrote in a description of the project. “This, along with safety examples provided by firefighters, provides the knowledge needed to prevent fires, and the steps to follow in the event of a fire situation. It is a very successful program in reaching young children and reinforcing important lessons like preparing and practicing a home fire escape plan.”
According to a March 3 announcement from the Firefighters Association of the State of New York, the state “currently leads the nation in home fire deaths, with 36 deaths in the first two months of 2023.”
Mr. Zimmerman, whose two children went through the schools here, and who now has three grandchildren who live in Amagansett, is hoping to leave this as a legacy gift to the community. “I made a great living here, so I just want to give back,” he said.
He has been working with the East Hampton School District to fine-tune the project. Adam Fine, the district’s superintendent, thinks the idea would benefit the community.
“I think the more we expose children to fire safety, the better,” Mr. Fine said. “The worst thing to do is become complacent. We have seen this with our buildingwide fire drills. We have to remind the students that it can happen, and it can happen here.”
Donations can be made online at ehvf.org or by mail to the East Hampton Village Foundation at P.O. Box 2054, East Hampton 11937, with “fire house” noted in the memo area.