“Where There’s Smoke, There Should be a Smoke Alarm” was the ingenious slogan for 1977’s Fire Prevention Week. In 1944, the slogan was “Feed Fighters, Not Fires.”

This year’s Fire Prevention Week theme is “Not Every Hero Wears a Cape. Plan and Practice Your Escape.”

Fire Prevention Week commemorates the Great Chicago Fire, which lasted two days, doing the most damage on Oct. 9, 1871. According to the National Fire Protection Association, the catastrophic fire killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 without homes, destroyed around 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres.

It is unclear how the Great Chicago Fire started. There are a number of theories and speculations about how such a massive fire began. Some believe the story of a Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicking over a lamp in a barn, and some blame the blaze on a couple of neighborhood boys who were near the barn sneaking cigarettes. Interestingly, others believe that a meteorite was the culprit for starting several fires that day.

While the Great Chicago Fire was the best-known fire to start on Oct. 8, 1871, it was not even the biggest fire that occurred that day. The biggest blaze to transpire on the date was the Peshtigo Fire, the most devastating forest fire in American history. This fire tore through Northeast Wisconsin, killing 1,152 people and scorching 1.2 million acres.

The way firefighters and public officials think about fire safety was changed by the horrendous fires in Chicago and Wisconsin. On the 40th anniversary of the fire in Chicago, the Fire Marshals Association decided to commemorate the fire not with festivities, but by doing something that would help keep the public safe and informed about the importance of fire prevention.

Since 1922, Fire Prevention Week has been observed on the Sunday through Saturday period in which Oct. 9 falls. This year’s Fire Prevention Week, “Not Every Hero Wears a Cape. Plan and Practice Your Escape” will run from Oct. 6-12 and is a good time to educate yourself and others on fire safety.

Roughly half of home fire deaths result from fires reported between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., when most people are asleep. Because of this the NFPA recommends a working smoke alarm in each sleeping area. If you are unable to do this, at least one on each floor is better than no smoke detectors.

In a typical home fire, you may have as little as one to two minutes to escape safely from the time the smoke alarm sounds. Escape planning and practice can help you make the most of the time you have, giving everyone enough time to get out.

So remember, plan ahead for your escape plan and practice today.

If you are in need of a smoke detector, contact your jurisdictional fire department.

If you have any questions please feel free to call the Athens Fire Department, at 740-592-3301, or to learn more fire safety tips, go to www.com.ohio.gov/fire, then follow the link to prevention.

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