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Fire Chief's Musings Ignite a Brainstorm, and Fire-Safe Toys Are the End Result

June 04, 1989|SIOK-HIAN TAY KELLEY | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles Fire Chief Don Manning was mulling over how bans on fireworks dampened the Fourth of July spirits of his five grandchildren when he started thinking about fire-safe toys that could fill the void.

"I was wondering, boy, that would be nice rather than Grandpa saying 'no, no, no' to fireworks," he recalled.

One day, he mentioned his thoughts to Jerry Pressman, a former board member of the National Fire Academy and president of a Los Angeles firm that designs fire-protection systems. Pressman discussed the possibilities with Northridge businessman Jeff Rapport and, four months ago, Funnerworks Corp. was born in Pasadena.

On Monday the firm will begin marketing its line of toys, including battery-operated sparklers, screaming balloon whistles and fire-retardant bubblemats that make big pops when jumped on because they are reinforced with nylon.

Intended as a Catalyst

The firm, which will cease selling the toys July 5, is intended strictly as a catalyst to encourage major toy companies to create similar products, Pressman said. The products will only be sold through charitable organizations and volunteer auxiliaries of fire departments.

Sponsored by Rapport and anonymous donors he described as concerned fire professionals, Funnerworks will limit its profits to 10%. Portions of every sale and profits above 10% will be given to the Canoga Park-based Alisa Ann Ruch California Burn Foundation.

The statewide organization, which promotes education for fire and burn prevention, was formed in 1971 as a memorial to Alisa Ann Ruch, an 8-year-old from the San Fernando Valley who was fatally burned in a back-yard barbecue accident.

'Highly Appreciative'

"We're highly appreciative of anything that would divert people's attention to less harmful things" than fireworks, said Monrovia Fire Chief Mark Foote at a news conference Thursday in Monrovia, where the burn foundation has a branch office.

Noting that he is not endorsing any particular product, Manning said he is "pleased that the private sector is responding to a need we see as a fire service. We had a strong understanding from the very beginning that there would be no profit."

The toys will be available for sale beginning Monday at the foundation's Monrovia office on Colorado Boulevard and July 1 at Santa Monica Community College. For other locations, call (800) 334-SAFE.

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