"Sometimes people just need to see it to believe it," said Glen Guarin, City of Fort Walton Beach fire marshall.

That's why the Fort Walton Beach Fire Department will intentionally light two fires in front of a live audience at 2 p.m. April 13 during the Saint Mary’s Catholic School Spring Fling at the Northwest Florida Fairgrounds, 1958 Lewis Turner Blvd. in Fort Walton Beach. Admission and parking are free.

"There's nothing like the heat and smoke of a real fire to help adults and children understand just how fast a home fire is," said Guarin. "With our side-by-side comparison, we can show both the danger of fire and the value of having a fire sprinkler system installed."

This dramatic, yet safe, form of education has become increasingly popular with fire departments across the country. On April 13, Okaloosa, Walton and Santa Rosa County residents will see firsthand why a typical home fire becomes deadly in three minutes or less.

Two structures have been constructed to simulate the room and contents of a typical home. Each room contains common furnishings, window treatments and a working smoke alarm. Only one of the rooms contains a fire sprinkler. The two rooms will be transported to Northwest Florida Fairgrounds where the fires will be lit.

The Fort Walton Beach Fire Department will have firefighters and fire trucks on hand as well. Educational materials and a question and answer period will be held before and after the actual burn.

“By providing this unique live fire comparison, people not only gain an appreciation for the power of fire; they also realize what an incredible advantage it is to have a fire sprinkler system installed if fire breaks out,” said Guarin.