The 2020 theme for Fire Prevention Week is “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen” reminding us that the kitchen is the #1 place for fires to start in the home and we need to take personal responsibility for reducing our risk of fire. To further mark this week, each day we will be highlighting a different aspect of fire prevention.
The first national recognition of a Fire Prevention Day came in 1911 on the 40th anniversary of “The Great Chicago Fire”. That fire occurred October 9, 1871. At least 250 people died, 100,000 were left homeless, more than 17,000 structures and 2000 acres burned in only 27 hours! Popular legend has it that the fire was started by a lantern kicked over by “Mrs. O’Leary’s cow”. Less known to history is “The Great Peshtigo Fire” (the most devastating forest fire in American history) raging that same week in neighboring Wisconsin. That fire would burn 2,400 square miles (1.2 million acres!), killing more than 1,100 people, completely destroying the town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin and 15 other towns.
That week in October would long be remembered for its tragic losses in life and property. In 1925 President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the first National Fire Prevention Week. 93 years later, our country has grown tremendously and great efforts have been made to protect and preserve life and property, but thousands still die in fires every year in the United States.
According to National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), U.S. fire departments responded to 1.3 million fires in 2019. These fires resulted in roughly 3,700 civilian fire fatalities, 16,600 civilian injuries and $14.8 billion in damages. On average, 7 people per day die in U.S. home fires.