National Fire Protection Association celebrates Fire Prevention Week October 7-13

Established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the theme of this year’s annual event is “Have 2 Ways Out,” stressing the importance of having a home fire escape plan.

Since 1922, Fire Prevention Week has been observed on the Sunday through Saturday period in which Oct. 9 falls; this year’s observance runs from Oct. 7-13. This tradition first began on the 40th anniversary of theGreat Chicago Fire of 1871. Although that devastating blaze actually began on Oct. 8, it continued to burn throughout following day during which most of its damage occurred. Several other communities in Wisconsin and Michigan also experienced fires during the same two days. The Chicago fire is undoubtedly the most famous of those fires, but it was by no means the largest or most devastating. The Peshtigo Fire which spread through northeastern Wisconsin scorched 1.2 million acres of land, burned down 16 towns, and killed 1,152 people. The fast-moving flames destroyed the entire town of Peshtigo, located along the upper peninsula border near Menominee, within an hour.

Because of these horrific blazes, the Fire Marshals Association of North America (now known as the International Fire Marshals Association ), designated the anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire be observed by activities that inform the public about the importance of fire prevention. Their early efforts continued to grow until 1920 when President Woodrow Wilson issued the first Fire Prevention Day proclamation. It was in 1922 that the decision was made to observe Fire Prevention Week during the calendar week in which Oct. 9 occurs. Every year since 1925, the president of the United States has signed a proclamation proclaiming a national observance during that week.

The type of activities that occur during Fire Prevention Week have certainly evolved since the early commemorations some ninety years ago. Local fire departments throughout the country often hold an open house and may even organize educational events in their communities. There has been a national theme every year since 1927 and a variety of free educational materials developed around the current year’s theme.

Visit the National Fire Prevention Association’s (NFPA) Fire Prevention Week website to learn more about developing and practicing a home fire escape plan with your family. The site offers resources for teachers and fire departments, a quiz to test your fire safety knowledge, activities for children and statistics about the causes of home fires. You may be surprised at the sobering number of home fires caused by unattended cooking, poorly or improperly maintained heating equipment, faulty electrical wiring, smoking materials, candles and various home appliances. Check with your local fire department to see if they are offering any educational activities during October in observance of this annual fire safety campaign.

If you do not have a home fire escape plan, take time to sit down with your family this month to create and practice a plan that incorporates this year’s theme “Have 2 Ways Out.” Remember to include family pets in your plan. Whether your home is threatened by a structural fire due to one of the causes mentioned above or is in danger because of a wildfire, having a home escape plan is equally important. Make sure you “Have 2 Ways Out.”