This week is National Fire Prevention Week, which recognizes the importance of fire safety in this country.
Fire Prevention Week was established in 1920 when President Woodrow Wilson issued the first Fire Prevention Day proclamation. The President of the United States has signed a proclamation every year since 1925, making it the longest running public health and safety observance on record.
Fire Prevention Week is always held on the week containing October 8th to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 where 250 died and 100,000 were left homeless. Mrs. O’Leary’s cow supposedly started the fire, though Mrs. O’Leary always denied it. Other possible reasons for the fire include several boys sneaking cigarettes near the barn and a meteorite (several fell in the region that day).
Ironically that fire was not the “greatest” that day. A fire in Northeastern Wisconsin burned 1.2 million acres, killed 1,152 people and destroyed 16 towns. This lesser-known fire was caused by railroad workers who accidentally started a brush fire while clearing land for tracks.
To help make every week a Fire Prevention Week, here are some fire safety tips:
- “Have 2 Ways Out”- This year’s National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) theme reminds people to always have two ways out of every room. Normally this is the door and a window. If windows are not at ground level, have an escape ladder ready to assist you in getting out.
- Never use extension cords in place of permanent wiring –Never cover or overload extension cords which can lead to overheating.
- Extinguish cigarettes fully and place them in a metal container away from combustibles – A fire last Saturday night on Kent’s east hill was caused by discarded cigarettes igniting the siding of a house. The fire then traveled into the attic space through the bird-blocking, heavily damaging the home. Fortunately, no one was injured.
- A working smoke alarm greatly reduces the chance of dying or being seriously injured in a fire –Working smoke alarms increase the chance of surviving a home fire by 50 percent and protect you at night, which is when most fatal fires take place.
- Change your clock and change your battery – When you change your clock to standard time on the first Sunday in November, also change the battery in your smoke alarm. Firefighters often respond to fires where smoke alarms are missing or the batteries have been taken out of them.
- “Watch What You Heat” – A July 5th apartment fire in SeaTac was caused by unattended cooking and displaced several families from their homes. Always remain in the kitchen when using your stove top.
For more safety tips and the full list of NFPA Fire Prevention Week themes, go to www.NFPA.org and click on “Fire Prevention Week.”