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The Origins of Fire Prevention Week

By: Dora Brogdon

This week is National Fire Prevention Week. Many people think of Fire Prevention Week as a time for checking batteries in smoke detectors and fire safety talks at schools, but do you really know the origins of Fire Prevention Week?

At some point, most everyone has heard about the Great Chicago Fire and the destruction it caused. The raging inferno, which burned from October 8th to 9th in 1871, left 100,000 homeless and killed 250 people. There are many rumors which have spread over the years regarding the origins of the Chicago Fire.

However, the Chicago Fire wasn’t the only one to cause mayhem on October 8th. Many of you may not be as familiar with the Peshtigo Fire which has the distinction of being known as the most devastating forest fire in American history. It earned that title by scorching 1.2 million acres of land, burning down 16 towns, and killing 1,152 people in Wisconsin. It was believed that railroad workers may have accidentally started the flames by starting a simple brush fire.

Stories as to the origins of both fires include the urban legend of a meteorite having landed in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Chicago, all at the same time.

President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation that recognized the first National Fire Prevention Week on October 4-10, 1922. After 92 long years, Fire Prevention Week is the longest running public health observance.

Since fire prevention is our topic for today, here are a few safety tips to keep you and your family safe!

*Always have your heating system regularly serviced by a professional. This also includes any chimneys or wood-burning fire places.

*You should always remove the lint from your dryer filter after every use. letting the filter clog up makes your dryer less efficient and reduces the airflow that it needs to keep heat from building up in the vents.

*Keep any piles of leaves, trash, and firewood away from the house.

*Never dump hot ashes outside near your home, instead keep them in a metal container away from your home and garage.

*Also avoid using outlet extenders or plug-in power bars.

Old or damaged appliance cords need to be replaced and never try to force a three-pronged plug into a two-slot outlet or extension cord.

*Store any containers of cooking oils far away from the stove. Never try to carry the pan outside or pour water on a grease fire. This only makes the situation worse. Instead turn off the burner and pour baking soda on the fire.

*You may want to consider using borrowed heat to keep any outdoor pets warm. It would be best to use a heating system from a separate building, or you could possibly bring your pets inside during the cold winter months.

*Lastly, make sure you properly extinguish smoking materials. If they are not properly handled they can smolder undetected for days before igniting a fire.

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