The week of October 5 through 11, 2008, has passed, which was National Fire Prevention Week, but the whole month of October focuses on fire prevention, so it’s never too late to talk about fire safety!
October 8th, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire occurred.  The theory of Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicking over the lantern being the cause of this enormous fire was later disproved, when Michael Ahern, a reporter for the Chicago Republican admitted he had made up the story to enhance his article.  It did begin in a shed owned by the O’Leary’s, and there are a number of theories about the cause of the fire.

At that time, Chicago was made up of mostly wooden buildings, even sidewalks, and there had been a terrible drought that summer and fall.  Estimates are that around 300 people died as the result of this fire, which covered 4 miles length and one-half a mile wide.  The fire burned from October 8 to October 10, when it finally began to rain.  Firefighters did their best to combat the inferno, which left around 90,000 residents homeless.

October 8, 1920, President Woodrow Wilson declared the First National Fire Prevention Day.  National Fire Prevention Month, which officially began in 1922, in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire, has been the longest public safety and health campaign in United States history.

The National Fire Prevention Association released the following statistics for 2007:

  • 17,675 civilian individuals were injured due to fire
  • 3,430 civilians lost their lives as a result of fire
  • 118 firefighters killed in the line of duty
  • $14.6 billion in property loss
  • 32,500 structural fires were intentionally set, causing 295 deaths
  • Intentionally set fires caused an estimated $733 million in property damage
  • 1.6 million fires reported

Fire Departments throughout the United States give demonstrations during Fire Prevention Month telling students and the public all about fire trucks, what firefighters wear, how to prevent brush and forest fires, and what to do in case of fire.

Our next installment will be about fire extinguishers, when to use them, and when not to use them!  Stay tuned……………………