At WATERAX, our business is moving the water that puts out wildfires, using some of the most powerful, reliable and lightweight pumps around. During Fire Prevention Week, which this year runs October 3 to 9, we join all firefighters - wildland, urban and rural - in helping raise awareness of the importance of fire prevention. Because prevention is certainly the most powerful firefighting tool of all.
First, a bit of history. Ever wonder why Fire Prevention week is held in October? On October 9, 1871, a massive fire swept through the city of Chicago. The Great Fire as it came to be known was brought under control in just 27 hours, aided by rain, but in that time 300 people lost their lives and 100,000 were left homeless. The fire destroyed more than 17,000 buildings and ravaged over 4,800 hectares of land.
The causes of the fire are in dispute, although the popular story, memorialized in a campfire song, is that Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked over the lantern in her shed. What is not in question is why the fire propagated so quickly: months of drought conditions and high winds left the city’s buildings, which were primarily constructed of wood and roofed with flammable pitch or wood shingles, a virtual tinderbox. (Sidebar: In 1956, the Chicago Fire Academy was built on the site where Mrs. O'Leary's barn once stood. The school trains new firefighters to this day.)
Which brings us to the all-important idea of prevention. Fire and city officials realized Chicago could not be rebuilt in the same precarious manner. It took years, and unfortunately more serious fires, before action was taken to address local building codes, but eventually Chicago became a pioneer in the adoption of fireproof brick and stone construction, with iron and steel framing and with fireproof terracotta tile used as roofing material. Fire prevention, in other words, at its most basic.
In 1911, the oldest member organization of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the Fire Marshals Association of North America, organized the first fire prevention day to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire. 11 years later, the first Fire Prevention Week was launched in the United States. In Canada, the first national Fire Prevention Week was proclaimed in 1923.
The NFPA is an international organization responsible for fire prevention efforts at many levels, including the Fire Prevention Week campaign. This year’s campaign theme is “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety!” The goal is to inform people about the different alerts that smoke and carbon monoxide alarms make, from the “change my battery” chirp to the full blown alarm, and what to do when you hear them. There is also information on what to do if a person in a household is deaf or hard of hearing.
A plethora of fire prevention best practices and information can be found at NFPA.org. Of course, wildland fires and damage to your home can also be prevented. For tips on creating a fire buffer zone around rural and exurban properties, check out the WATERAX blog. You’ll also find tips on how to prepare should you ever need to evacuate here, along with campfire best safety practices to help you keep your fire under control.
Fire safety education isn’t just for school children. In a fire, mere seconds can mean the difference between a safe escape or tragedy, putting teenagers, adults, and the elderly also at risk. That’s why, at WATERAX, we encourage every member of the community to take some time each October during Fire Prevention Week to make sure they understand how to stay safe in case of a fire.