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Fire Chief Pushes for Toys as Alternative to Fireworks

June 11, 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.

This week, the firm began marketing its line of toys, including battery-operated sparklers, screaming balloon whistles and fire-retardant bubble mats 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 be sold only 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 Alisa Ann Ruch California Burn Foundation of Canoga Park.

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 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 are available for sale at the foundation's Monrovia office on Colorado Boulevard. Beginning July 1, they also will be sold at Santa Monica Community College. For other locations, call (800) 334-SAFE.

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