Monday, October 3, 2011 - 3:06am
The City of Madison Fire Department is back in City of Madison elementary schools this month following last year's focus on smoke alarm installation.
Fire Prevention Week traditionally commemorates the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. That fire 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.
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, roared through Northeast Wisconsin, burning down 16 towns, killing 1,152 people, and scorching 1.2 million acres before it ended.
Those fires 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 be observed not with festivities, but in a way that would keep the public informed about the importance of fire prevention.
Throughout October, the Department's Community Education Unit is visiting the City's elementary schools with a fire safety obstacle course and multiple displays. Among the highlights is a smoke-covered wall, complete with melted smoke alarm, taken from an actual house fire.
This year's message, Protect Your Family from Fire, encourages children and adults alike to adopt behaviors that prevent fires and provides strategies to use in the event of a fire.
- Lori Wirth