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Fire a dangerous opponent – learn how to protect your family

During Fire Prevention Week the Prince Edward County Fire Department will be visiting homes to ensure the safety of Prince Edward County residents.

Prince Edward County firefighters offered promotional goodies for adults, and children, stopping by their information booth at the Canadian Tire store this weekend.

The Prince Edward County Fire Department reinforces newer smoke alarm recommendations during Fire Prevention Week, October 9-15, 2011

What’s the best way to protect your family from fire? Be ahead of the game, of course. The Prince Edward County’s Fire Department is teaming up with NFPA during the October 9-15, 2011, to let our community know: “It’s Fire Prevention Week. Protect your Family from Fire!” This year’s campaign focuses on preventing the leading causes of home fires — cooking, heating and electrical equipment, as well as candles and smoking materials. Additionally, it urges people to protect their homes and families with life-saving technology and planning.

“In 2009, 2,565 people died in home fires. Nearly all of these deaths could have been prevented by taking a few simple precautions like having working smoke alarms and a home fire escape plan, keeping things that can burn away from the stove and always turning off space heaters before going to bed,” says Mike Branscombe, Fire Prevention Officer of the Prince Edward County Fire Department. “Fire is a dangerous opponent, but by anticipating the hazards, you are much less likely to be one of the nearly 13,000 people injured in home fires each year.”

The Prince Edward County Fire Department offers the following tips for protecting your home and family from fire:

  • Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
  • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
  • Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
  • Replace or repair damaged or loose electrical cords.
  • If you smoke, smoke outside.
  • Use deep, wide ashtrays on a sturdy table.
  • Blow out all candles when you leave the room or go to bed. Avoid the use of candles in the bedroom and other areas where people may fall asleep.

“While preventing home fires in Prince Edward County is always our number one priority, it is not always possible,” Branscombe continued. “Prince Edward County’s residents need to provide the best protection to keep their homes and families safe in the event of a fire. This can be achieved by developing an escape plan which you practice regularly and equipping homes with life-saving technologies like smoke alarms and home fire sprinklers.”

The following tips will help keep your family safe if there is a fire in your home:

  • Install smoke alarms inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of the home (including the basement).
  • Interconnect all smoke alarms in the home so when one sounds, they all sound.
  • Test smoke alarms at least monthly and replace all smoke alarms when they are 10 years old or sooner if they do not respond when tested.
  • Make sure everyone in your home knows how to respond if the smoke alarm sounds.
  • Pull together everyone in your household and make a plan. Walk through your home and inspect all possible ways out.  Households with children should consider drawing a floor plan of your home, marking two ways out of each room, including windows and doors.
  • If you are building or remodeling your home, consider installing home fire sprinklers.

The Prince Edward County Fire Department will be hosting activities during Fire Prevention Week to promote “It’s Fire Prevention Week. Protect your Family from Fire!” Through these educational, family-oriented activities, residents can learn more about the power of prevention and available technologies to protect their own families from fire.

To find out more about Fire Prevention Week programs and activities in Prince Edward County , please contact the Prince Edward County Fire Department at 613-476-2345. To learn more about “It’s Fire Prevention Week. Protect your Family from Fire!” visit NFPA’s website at www.firepreventionweek.org.

The History of Fire Prevention Week

Commemorating a conflagration
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. But recent research by Chicago historian Robert Cromie has helped to debunk this version of events.

The ‘Moo’ myth
Like any good story, the ‘case 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 jumpy cow sparked the blaze. Mrs. O’Leary herself swore that she’d been in bed early that night, and that the cows were also tucked in for the evening.

But if a cow wasn’t to blame for the huge fire, what was? 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 sneaking cigarettes. Others believed that a neighbor of the O’Leary’s may have started the fire. Some people have speculated that a fiery meteorite may have fallen to earth on October 8, starting several fires that day – in Michigan and Wisconsin, as well as in Chicago.

The biggest blaze that week
While the Great Chicago Fire was the best-known blaze to start during this fiery two-day stretch, it wasn’t the biggest. That distinction goes to the Peshtigo Fire, the most devastating forest fire in American history. The fire, which also occurred on October 8th, 1871, and roared through Northeast Wisconsin, burning down 16 towns, killing 1,152 people, and scorching 1.2 million acres before it ended.

Historical accounts of the fire say that the blaze began when several railroad workers clearing land for tracks unintentionally started a brush fire. Before long, the fast-moving flames were whipping through the area ‘like a tornado,’ some survivors said. It was the small town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin that suffered the worst damage. Within an hour, the entire town had been destroyed.

Eight decades of fire prevention
Those who survived the Chicago and Peshtigo fires never forgot what they’d been through; both blazes produced countless tales of bravery and heroism. But the fires also changed the way that firefighters and public officials thought about fire safety. On the 40th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire, the Fire Marshals Association of North America (today known as the International Fire Marshals Association), decided that the anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire should henceforth be observed not with festivities, but in a way that would keep the public informed about the importance of fire prevention.  The commemoration grew incrementally official over the years.

In 1920, President Woodrow Wilson issued the first National Fire Prevention Day proclamation, and since 1922, Fire Prevention Week has been observed on the Sunday through Saturday period in which October 9 falls. According to the National Archives and Records Administration’s Library Information Center, Fire Prevention Week is the longest running public health and safety observance on record. The President of the United States has signed a proclamation proclaiming a national observance during that week every year since 1925.

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