National Fire Prevention Week
By Robin Scott
Fire Prevention Week was established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The tragedy took the lives of more than 250 people and left 100,000 homeless. More than 17,400 structures were destroyed and 2,000 acres burned. The fire that began on October 8, 1871 caused most of its damage on October 9, 1871, which gave rise to honoring fallen firemen on that day.
Legend has it that the fire broke out when a cow owned by a Mrs. Catherine O’Leary kicked over a lamp, setting the first structure, a barn, ablaze. Soon, the entire city of Chicago was on fire. Ironically, that same day a larger fire was recorded. That fire burned through 16 Wisconsin towns, killing more than 1,100 people and destroying 1.2 million acres.
In 1920, President Woodrow Wilson issued the first National Fire Prevention Day proclamation, and since 1922, Fire Prevention Week has been observed on the Sunday through Saturday period in which October 9 falls. According to the National Archives and Records Administration’s Library Information Center, Fire Prevention Week is the longest running public health and safety observance on record. Each President of the United States has signed a proclamation proclaiming a national observance during that week every year since 1925.
The week is dedicated to fire prevention and safety. Each year a theme is established that reiterates safety, and this year’s theme is “Stay Fire Smart. Don’t Get Burned.” The National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) has an abundance of information available to the public, children, teachers, businesses, homeowners and firefighters on its website. A special site dedicated to Fire Prevention Week is also available from the NFPA.
Communities are encouraged to implement fire safety and prevention tips in schools during the week, get the community involved in fire safety tips and always at the top of the fire prevention list: make sure each and every home has an escape plan in case of fire.
Fire Chief Curtis Brown of the Dalhart Fire Department noted, “There is never a bad time to remember what to do in case of a fire. Fire Prevention Week is a more visible reminder of what we all need to do on a daily basis. As this year’s theme says, stay fire safe. That means all year long.”
Fire Chief Brown and the volunteer firefighters in Dalhart, Texline, Hartley and Channing make themselves available for information on fire safety and prevention. Materials are available to the public for more information which includes instructional DVD’s that may be viewed at the fire department or borrowed.
For more information about National Fire Prevention Week, visit www.nfpa.org, www.firepreventionweek.org, or call the fire department at 244.5454.