The most notable effort in Fire Prevention has been the creation of Fire Prevention Week.

Fire Prevention Week was established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire, the tragic 1871 conflagration that 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 October 8, but continued into and did most of its damage on October 9, 1871.

According to popular legend, the fire broke out after a cow - belonging to Mrs. Catherine O'Leary - kicked over a lamp, setting first the barn, then the whole city on fire. Chances are you've heard some version of this story yourself; people have been blaming the Great Chicago Fire on the cow and Mrs. O'Leary, for more than 130 years.

However, Fire Prevention isn’t something that should be practiced one week a year; instead, Fire Prevention is something that needs to have everyone’s attention every minute of every hour of every day of the year.

Here are some basic facts you may not have know about:

  • Each year, fire kills more Americans than all natural disasters combined.
  • Fire is the third leading cause of accidental death in the home; at least 80 percent of all fire deaths occur in residences.
  • About 2 million fires are reported each year. Many others go unreported, causing additional injuries and property loss.
  • Direct property loss due to fires is estimated at $8.6 billion annually.

Causes of Fires and Fire Deaths

  • Cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the U.S. It is also the leading cause of home fire injuries. Cooking fires often result from unattended cooking and human error, rather than mechanical failure of stoves or ovens.
  • Careless smoking is the leading cause of fire deaths. Smoke alarms and smolder-resistant bedding and upholstered furniture are significant fire deterrents.
  • Heating is the second leading cause of residential fires and the second leading cause of fire deaths. However, heating fires are a larger problem in single family homes than in apartments. Unlike apartments, the heating systems in single family homes are often not professionally maintained.
  • Arson is both the third leading cause of residential fires and residential fire deaths. In commercial properties, arson is the major cause of deaths, injuries and dollar loss.

Who is Most at Risk?

  • Senior citizens age 70 and over and children under the age of 5 have the greatest risk of fire death.
  • The fire death risk among seniors is more than double the average population.
  • The fire death risk for children under age 5 is nearly double the risk of the average population.
  • Children under the age of 10 accounted for an estimated 17 percent of all fire deaths in 2000.
  • Men die or are injured in fires almost twice as often as women.

So now that you have some facts about fires and the tragedies it can cause, here are some things you can do to help keep you and your family fire safe:

Install and Maintain Smoke Detectors

A working smoke alarm dramatically increases a person's chance of surviving a fire. Approximately 88 percent of U.S. homes have at least one smoke alarm.  However, these alarms are not always properly maintained and as a result might not work in an emergency.  There has been a disturbing increase over the last ten years in the number of fires that occur in homes with non-functioning alarms.  It is estimated that over 40 percent of residential fires and three-fifths of residential fatalities occur in homes with no smoke alarms.   Every bedroom and every floor of your house should have a working smoke detector.  Please don’t forget the old saying too… “Change Your Clocks, Change Your Batteries!”

Consider Residential Sprinklers

While smoke detectors notify you when a fire may be occurring in your home, Residential Sprinklers can actually contain and extinguish a fire that may occur in the home.  Residential sprinklers have become more cost effective for homes. Currently, few homes are protected by them, however they are becoming increasingly more common and the benefits far outweigh any other factors involved in having them.

Have a Home Fire Escape Plan

Work out a plan that suits you family and your home.  Make sure that you talk to your family, and ensure everybody is familiar with your plan.  This is something that should be practiced at least every six months.  When making your plan, remember that it is important to know at least two ways out of your home, and if you have doors with deadlocks, you should keep the keys in the inside deadlock.  Once everybody is ok with getting out of the house, be certain that everyone knows one prearranged spot to meet up.  Be it a tree or a mail box, it’s important to know that everyone is together and out of the house.  Lastly, don’t forget to call the fire department from a neighbor’s house or your cell phone… just never from inside the house.

This is just a small listing of things you can do to keep your family safe from a home fire emergency; however the best thing you can do to ensure your family remains fire safe, is to not have a fire altogether.

Remember these few important facts when you’re in your home or work environment:

  • Limit the burning of candles inside the home. If you’re going to use candles, keep the area around them clear and keep them away from any drapes or upholstered furniture.
  • Never overload electrical outlets
  • Limit the use of extension cords. If you must use an extension cord, make sure it is rated for what you’re using it for. Never connect extension cords together and never hide extension cords under rugs or behind furniture. Furthermore, never use any electrical equipment that is in less then perfect condition.
  • Never leave cooking unattended.
  • Never store oven mitts or dish rags near the stove. If you’re not using them, keep them away.

Of course these are just a few tips to help keep you and your family safe.  Common sense prevails in every situation.

Please make sure you practice Fire Prevention and Fire Safety during your every endeavor.  If you have any questions of need further advice on keeping your home fire safe, please take the time to stop in the fire station and talk to any of the firefighters… they’re all more then willing to help you!