Fire Prevention Week, which will be observed from Oct. 9-15, was born from a devastating tragedy. In 1871, the Great Chicago Fire killed more than 250 people, left more than 100,000 more homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres. The fire began on Oct. 8, but continued into and did most of its damage on October 9, 1871. On the 40th anniversary (1911) of the Great Chicago Fire, the Fire Marshals Association of North America sponsored the first National Fire Prevention Day. The event not only observed the anniversary, but also aimed to keep the public informed about the importance of fire prevention. 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 Oct. 9 falls.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) continues to be the international sponsor of the week and reports the following facts:
- In 2014, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 367,500 home structure fires. These fires caused 2,745 deaths, 11,825 civilian injuries and $6.8 billion in direct damage.
- On average, seven people die in U.S. home fires per day.
- Cooking equipment is the leading cause of home fire injuries, followed by heating equipment.
- Smoking materials are the leading cause of home fire deaths.
- Most fatal fires kill one or two people. In 2014, 15 home fires killed five or more people resulting in a total of 88 deaths.
- During 2009-2013, roughly one of every 335 households had a reported home fire per year.
- Approximately 60% of home fire deaths from 2009-2013 were caused by fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.
- Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in reported home fires in half.
As the NFPA’s statistics show, smoke alarms are crucial to preventing home fire deaths. They should be installed on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and tested once a month. If they are not working, change the batteries. Smoke alarms should be replaced with new ones at least every 10 years.
Here are some other fire safety prevention tips:
- Never smoke in bed.
- Talk to your children regularly about the dangers of fire, matches and lighters and keep them out of reach.
- Turn portable heaters off when you leave the room or go to sleep.
- Stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen, even for a short period of time, turn off the stove.
- Keep anything that can catch fire—like potholders, towels, plastic and clothing— away from the stove.
- Inspect and clean wood stove pipes and chimneys annually and check monthly for damage or obstructions.
- Frayed wires can cause fires. Replace all worn, old or damaged appliance cords immediately and do not run cords under rugs or furniture.
And, of course, have your home’s electrical and HVAC systems inspected regularly by licensed professionals to ensure they are operating not only efficiently, but safely.