Practise your escape plan

Sam McNeish
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Fire Prevention Week 2007

Every year that the week of Oct. 9 falls on, the fire services in North America enahnce their fire prevention promotions and target troubled areas that statistics show need the attention of fire officials and the general public.

OXFORD - The fire inspectors do a few extra inspections, the chiefs do public addresses and the firefighters attend schools and public functions to promote the yearly theme.

This year, Its Fire Prevention Week Practise Your Escape Plan is our coast-to coast-chant, Tory Rushton, chief of the Oxford Fire Department, said.

Fire services across the country will be out in full force this week and will be handing out literature to adults, activity books and stickers to kids but most of all, they will be giving out advice on how to make your home, workplace and public centres more fire safe places for you and your children to be, he added.

Anyone with a question or concern about a potential fire hazard or a safety concern, can contact any local fire department and the firefighters there will be able to direct you down the correct path.

As you talk to these firefighters or see them at your childs school, remember the majority of firefighters in Canada are volunteers and dedicate many hours each week to training, planning, fundraising and public awareness sessions in your community and this does not count the emergency responses that vary weekly.

They are there because they care about the well-being of your community and as a fire chief, I would like to thank those firefighters for the countless work they do at the station, but most of all as a citizen. I thank them for the endless giving they give to our citizens each and every day, he added.

Those volunteers will join their brothers and sisters across Cumbelrad County this week to honour and remember those who have served with them, before them and those who will join after they are gone.

Firefighters will visit schools, talk to children and seniors and meet with the public to discuss a means of fire safety in every home throughout the region.

Various versions of how and why Fire Prevention Week started appear on many web sites.

Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia said Fire Prevention Week dates back to 1871, when a devastating fire roared through the Chicago area and destroyed 2,000 acres, 17,400 structures, left 100,000 homeless and killed more than 250 people.

Although not confirmed, the story tells that on the evening of Oct. 8, the horrific fire started in Mrs. OLearys cow barn that housed her small heard of dairy cattle. The myth tells of many tales with the more popular being of a cow kicking over a lamp igniting the blaze.

To this day, the people of Chicago still blame the cattle for the Great Fire of Chicago.

In 1920, a National Day of Fire Prevention was proclaimed in the United States and since 1922, North America has recognized Fire Prevention Week.

This week has been observed to remember the terrible two-day inferno in Chicago and to promote fire safety practices and awareness for fire appreciation and its powers.

In 1871, the dairy cow may or may not have started that fire, it is and will be unknown possibly forever, and in 2007, the potential is there for a similar fire to start, but because of yearly Fire Prevention Week themes, the potential for the devastation in much less likely.

On that Oct. 8 and 9 in 1871, the Chicago Fire was not the largest one on record. The largest forest fire in American history took place on that same date in Northeast Wisconsin.

The fire started by some train workers which burned 16 towns, killed 1,152 people and destroyed 1.2 million acres of land.

So in the words of Paul Harvey and now you know the rest of the story.

Organizations: Oxford Fire Department, Chicago Fire

Geographic location: OXFORD, Chicago, Canada Cumbelrad United States North America Northeast Wisconsin

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