Fort Wayne Community Schools donates bus for use at city’s Safety Village

By Ft Wayne Times | Originally posted on

Fort Wayne Community Schools (FWCS) donated a school bus to the Fort Wayne Fire Department (FWFD) and the Fort Wayne Police Department (FWPD) today. The bus will be used at the Safety Village to educate students on how to evacuate a bus safely during emergencies such as fires or accidents.

The Safety Village, located at 1270 S. Phoenix Parkway, integrates police and fire safety educational curriculums in one location. This 3.7-acre complex is noted as the largest of its kind in the country. Established in 1991, it features 30 miniature buildings and a downtown area with 16 structures.

Programs offered at the Safety Village include both classroom and field activities and are free of charge for all area public and private schools. During the school year, FWPD offers safety programs focusing on pedestrian safety and stranger awareness for kindergarten-aged children. FWFD primarily instructs third-grade students and other special interest groups on how to escape from burning homes.

“The Fort Wayne Fire Department has a long history of partnership with Fort Wayne Community Schools and educating our community’s youth about fire safety,” said Fire Chief Eric Lahey. “We’re excited about this opportunity to expand our programming at Safety Village and about the new ways in which this long-standing partnership will continue to grow. With the donation of this school bus, we can educate the thousands of children who come through Safety Village each year about safely evacuating a school bus during an emergency.”

“The FWPD is grateful to FWCS for donating such a valuable piece of equipment to help us teach safety to kids,” said Police Chief Scott Caudill. “It’s partnerships like these that make our community safer and a great place to live.”

The Survive Alive House, also part of the Safety Village, uses advanced special effects to simulate an actual house fire without any real danger. During summer, programs are available for the general public including families, scouting groups, neighborhood associations, home-school groups, businesses, among others. Tours can be scheduled by contacting the Fort Wayne Fire Department Safety Education Division at 260-427-1483 or 260-427-5179.

More information about the Safety Village and Survive Alive House reveals its origins following a tragic house fire in 1979 that claimed four children’s lives. The local Parent Teacher’s Association (PTA), partnering with FWFD, promoted smoke detectors as essential safety devices leading to no fire deaths in Fort Wayne in subsequent years.

Following successful local campaigns, state-level efforts ensued involving Indiana City Fire Departments from Mishawaka, Hammond, Valparaiso constructing Survive Alive Houses first. In 1988, Officer Don Wismer secured land from Southtown Mall for building a new Safety Village replacing an older version downtown.

Efforts culminated after forming a fundraising committee comprising FWFD, FWPD, local PTA alongside City officials raising nearly $100K—majorly contributed by Associated Builders and Contractors Inc.—for constructing Survive Alive House opening alongside newly built Safety Village after four years without public funds involved.