October 9 is Fire Prevention Day, an annual event that not only helps save lives, but also commemorates one of America’s most devastating fires.
The Great Chicago Fire
At about 9:00 p.m. on October 8, 1871, one of America’s most deadly fires began, the Great Chicago Fire. 250 people died and 100,000 people were left homeless due to the ginormous blaze that burned 2000 acres. Legend has it that the two-day fire actually started after a cow kicked over a lantern, setting a barn and the entire city on fire.
On the very same day, October 8, 1871, America’s biggest fire and the worst recorded forest fire in North American history killed between 1,200 and 2,400 people. The Great Peshtigo Fire ravaged Upper Michigan and Northeastern Wisconsin and covered about 2400 square miles. While the fire covered a large area, nearly half of the deaths occurred in the village of Peshtigo.
Fire Prevention Week
United States President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first National Fire Prevention Day in 1920. Fire Prevention Week, which began in 1922, takes place each year on the Sunday through Saturday where October 9th falls. Each year, the President signs a Fire Prevention Week observance proclamation.
Home Structure Fire Facts & Life-Saving Safety Tips
- According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), more than 2,600 people died in home structure fires in 2012.
- 62 percent of those deaths occurred in homes with no working smoke alarms or no smoke alarms at all. A smoke alarm should be located on every level of your home and outside each sleeping area. Check your smoke alarms each month to ensure they are functioning properly.
- Since 1990, cooking has been the number one cause of reported home fires and the leading cause of injuries. In 2010, 410 people died due to cooking fires. Never leave food on the stove or in the oven, unattended.
- Heating equipment was the number one cause of reported home fires in the 80s.
- Clothes dryers and washing machines are also a source of home fires with failure to clean as the leading cause of those types of fires.
- While candles can add charm and ambiance to a room, they can also be a fire hazard. Candles resulted in about 35 home fires per day with more than 1/3 starting in the bedroom. Never leave burning candles unattended. Instead of “real” candles, use flameless candles instead!
- Installing a fire sprinkler system in the home can cut the risk of dying in a house fire by 83 percent!
- Store matches and lighters out of reach of children.
- Have your fireplace chimney cleaned and inspected annually.
- Install carbon monoxide detector(s) in your home.
- Keep candles and space heaters away from combustible materials.
- Plan and practice a safe fire escape route for your family. And have 2 ways out!
- If your clothing catches on fire, always remember to stop, drop and roll!
Fire Prevention Resources & Activities
- Download and print this Free Firetruck & Activity Booklet from FEMA.
- Visit Smokey the Bear’s Activity Page for Kids.
- Learn how to Create an Origami Sparky the Dog.
- Check out these Fire Prevention Day Coloring Pages for Children,
- How much do you know about fire safety? Take the Fire Prevention Week Quiz and find out!
October 9 is also Moldy Cheese Day and Curious Events Day.