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Monday, May 2, 2016

Area Fire Departments gear up for Fire Prevention Week

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Area fire departments are preparing for Fire Prevention Week 2012 to be held on Oct. 7 through 14. This year's theme is "Have Two Ways Out." The annual event is held to familiarize children with what firemen look like when they are dressed in their safety gear, and to help them learn techniques to help keep them safe. It also serves as week for fire safety reminders for adults, such as updating fire escape plans and replacing smoke detector batteries.

Local firefighters will be visiting area schools and daycares during the week to speak with children and, give them always anticipated grand tours of the fire trucks. By teaching children that firefighters are their friends, it helps children to not be afraid of them in the event of a fire. In many cases, children's first contact with a fireman is at a house fire. Many times they are afraid because of their rescuers scary breathing apparatus and the distorted sound of their voice when they talk through their masks.

At a recent daycare inspection, Ash Flat Fire Chief Stacy Horton and Adam Bates demonstrated to children the sounds and sights they might encounter at a fire, encouraging them to come out if a fire happens in their home and not to hide out of fear. These firemen, along with others from Highland, Hardy and Cherokee Village will be making their rounds during the week.

Fire Prevention Safety week is an annual public awareness campaign hosted by fire departments across the nation, established in 1920 by President Woodrow Wilson to commemorate the tragic 1871 Great Chicago Fire. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the historical fire killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres.

The fire began on Oct. 8, and did most of its damage on Oct. 9, 1871.

According to popular legend, the fire began when a cow belonging to a Chicago resident named Mrs. O'Leary kicked over a lamp and set the barn on fire. The fire then spread, eventually overtaking the entire city of Chicago.

People have been blaming the Great Chicago Fire on the cow for more than 130 years. But recent research by Chicago historian Robert Cromie has helped to debunk this urban legend.

Like any good story, the legend of the cow has some truth to it. The great fire almost certainly started near the barn where Mrs. O'Leary kept her five milking cows. But there is no proof that O'Leary was in the barn when the fire broke out or that a cow sparked the blaze. Mrs. O'Leary herself swore that she'd been in bed early that night.

Over the years, journalists and historians have offered plenty of theories. Some blamed the blaze on a couple of neighborhood boys who were near the barn smoking cigarettes. Some people have speculated a fiery meteorite may have fallen to earth on Oct. 8, starting several fires that day including fires in Michigan and Wisconsin, as well as in Chicago. The origin of the fire is still unknown, but historically is the basis of the current Fire Prevention Week campaigns.

While the Great Chicago Fire was the best-known blaze to start during this fiery two-day stretch in October, it wasn't the biggest. That distinction goes to the Peshtigo Fire, the most devastating forest fire in American history. The fire, which occurred on the same day as the Great Chicago Fire began in Northeast Wisconsin. The Peshtigo Fire burned down 16 towns, killed 1,152 people and damaged 1.2 million acres of land.

These historic fires made fire departments aware of the need for public awareness - fire prevention tips and information to reduce the number of fire tragedies that occur.

According to the National Archives, Fire Prevention Week is the longest running public health and safety observance on record.

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