HERMITAGE, Pa. (WKBN) – Home fire deaths hit a 14-year high last year, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Recently, a fire in Delaware Township in Mercer County killed five people. State troopers investigating the fire have still not said what caused the fire or why the family could not get out of the home. The state fire marshal is suggesting families make a home escape plan.

Sparky the mechanical dog has been teaching Hermitage children about fire safety for 16 years. He moves and even talks. Sparky teaches over 1,300 children each year about the dangers of fire.

“Knowing what causes fires, how serious that is, not playing with matches, anything like that as a child,” said Hermitage Fire Captain Case Clark.

Prevention starts at home. Clark teaches families to talk about a fire escape plan over dinner and pick a meeting place. The first step is to get out immediately when hearing an alarm and go to the pre-determined spot. That even helps firefighters.

“It helps put our minds at ease that we know that everybody that was in the house is now out,” Clark said.

Hermitage also has a trailer that lets children practice the rules of fire safety, teaching them how to escape on their own in case adults are not able to help. In a fire, there could be smoke, so what they encourage the kids to do is to get low and go.

“All the materials inside our homes burned quicker and hotter now. Where you may have had five minutes to get out of a home before in the ’70s, you have even less time now,” Clark said.

This week is Fire Prevention Week, but Hermitage will share tips with children for the entire month or whenever they’re asked. The information they pass on is extremely important.

“I think that’s one of the reasons we tend to see lower numbers of fatal fires is from the prevention and the education side of things, not just the protection side where we go out and actually fight the fires. It needs to start before that, having a plan in place,” Clark said.