Commemorating a conflagration
Prevention Week was established to commemorate the Great
Chicago Fire, the tragic 1871 conflagration that 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. According to popular legend, the
fire broke out after a cow - belonging to Mrs. Catherine
O'Leary - kicked over a lamp, setting first the barn, then
the whole city on fire. Chances are you've heard some
version of this story yourself; people have been blaming the
Great Chicago Fire on the cow and Mrs. O'Leary, for more
than 130 years. But recent research by Chicago historian
Robert Cromie has helped to debunk this version of events.
good story, the 'case of the cow' has some truth to it. The
great fire almost certainly started near the barn where Mrs.
O'Leary kept her five milking cows. But there is no proof
that O'Leary was in the barn when the fire broke out - or
that a jumpy cow sparked the blaze. Mrs. O'Leary herself
swore that she'd been in bed early that night, and that the
cows were also tucked in for the evening. But if a cow
wasn't to blame for the huge fire, what was? Over the years,
journalists and historians have offered plenty of theories.
Some blamed the blaze on a couple of neighborhood boys who
were near the barn sneaking cigarettes. Others believed that
a neighbor of the O'Leary's may have started the fire. Some
people have speculated that a fiery meteorite may have
fallen to earth on October 8, starting several fires that
day - in Michigan and Wisconsin, as well as in Chicago.
blaze that week
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, and
roared through Northeast Wisconsin, burning down 16 towns,
killing 1,152 people, and scorching 1.2 million acres before
it ended.Historical accounts of the fire say that the blaze
began when several railroad workers clearing land for tracks
unintentionally started a brush fire. Before long, the
fast-moving flames were whipping through the area 'like a
tornado,' some survivors said. It was the small town of
Peshtigo, Wisconsin that suffered the worst damage. Within
an hour, the entire town had been destroyed.Eight decades
of fire prevention
Those who survived the Chicago and
Peshtigo fires never forgot what they'd been through; both
blazes produced countless tales of bravery and heroism. But
the fires also 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 henceforth
be observed not with festivities, but in a way that would
keep the public informed about the importance of fire
prevention. The commemoration grew incrementally
official over the years.
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
October 9 falls. According to the National Archives and
Records Administration's Library Information Center, Fire
Prevention Week is the longest running public health and
safety observance on record. The President of the United
States has signed a proclamation proclaiming a national
observance during that week every year since 1925.
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Are You Prepared for Hurricane Season
Hurricanes can cause catastrophic
damage to coastlines and several hundred miles inland. Winds
can exceed 155 miles per hour. Hurricanes and tropical
storms can also spawn tornadoes and microburst, create storm
surges along the coast, and cause extensive damage from
heavy rainfall. Hurricanes are classified into five
categories based on their wind speed, central pressure, and
damage potential. Category Three and higher hurricanes are
considered major hurricanes, though Categories One and Two
are still extremely dangerous and warrant your full
Hurricanes can produce widespread
torrential rain. Floods are the deadly and destructive
result. Slow moving storms and tropical storms moving into
mountainous regions tend to produce especially heavy rain.
Excessive rain can trigger landslides or mud slides,
especially in mountainous regions. Flash flooding can occur
due to intense rainfall. Flooding on rivers and streams may
persist for several days or more after the storm.
Before a Hurricane
Make plans to secure your
property. Board up windows with 5/8” marine plywood.
Be sure trees and shrubs around
your home are well trimmed.
Clear loose and clogged rain
gutters and downspouts.
Determine how and where to secure
During a Hurricane
Listen to the radio or TV for
Secure your home, close storm
shutters, and secure outdoor objects or bring them
Turn off utilities if instructed &
turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting.
Turn off propane tanks· Avoid
using the phone, except for serious emergencies.
Have a supply of water for
sanitary purposes. Fill the bathtub with containers of
If you are directed by local
authorities to do so. Be sure to follow their
If you live in a mobile home or
temporary structure—such shelters are particularly
hazardous during hurricanes no matter how well fastened
to the ground.
Near a river or waterway.
If you feel you are in danger.
Unable to Evacuate
Stay indoors during the hurricane
and away from windows and glass doors.
Close all interior doors—secure
and brace external doors.
Take refuge in a small interior
room, closet, or hallway on the lowest level.
What a difference a spray makes
in fire safety
importance of home sprinklers
By CHELSEA MICHELS APP TOMS
2009 -As part of a demonstration, a fire that started in a
garbage can ripped through a room in a matter of minutes,
leaving only a blackened, gutted shell behind.
In a similar room, a fire blackened only a curtain and
garbage can before a single sprinkler kicked on, drenching
it with water and lessening the potential damage.
The major difference between the
two rooms was part of a demonstration put on by the Uniform
Fire Prevention/Protection Association of Ocean County, New
Jersey Fire Safety Commission and National Sprinkler
Association to show how sprinklers in residential buildings
greatly reduce the size and severity of fires, saving lives
of residents and firefighters.
"(Having sprinklers) is the equivalent of having a fire
department at your residence," said Bob Yaiser, public
education officer for the Toms River Bureau of Fire
Prevention. "We don't hesitate to sprinkle our front lawn to
keep our grass from burning. Why would you not want to spend
the money to protect your home and save yourself?"
Approximately 100 members of
local fire organizations and the public gathered to watch a
real-time demonstration of how a fire affected two identical
dormlike rooms, one with sprinklers and one without.
Chief John F. Lightbody of the Toms River Bureau of Fire
Prevention, approximately 3,000 residents and 115
firefighters die nationwide each year in fires, specifically
in one- and two-family dwellings. The New Jersey Fire
Commission Master Plan Committee, of which Lightbody is
chairman, is lobbying for legislation requiring all new one-
and two-family dwellings built after 2012 to have
said the Seton Hall dorm fires in January 2000 inspired the
nation's first law requiring sprinklers in dormitories at
"There has never been a multiple
loss of life in a fully suppressed building," said David
Kurasz, executive director of the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler
Advisory Board. He said the sprinklers help buy families a
lot of time, explaining that in 1975 families had
approximately 17 minutes to escape a house fire, a number
which dwindled to three minutes in 2003. This is due largely
to lightweight construction and hazardous contents in homes,
the sprinklers go into effect once the temperature reaches
155 degrees and are not activated by smoke. Only the
sprinklers closest to the fire release water, which is
approximately 15 to 25 gallons per minute, compared to 150
to 250 gallons per minute with a fire hose. Heidi Michel,
the fire official for Stafford, was watching the
demonstration with Chris Freeman, Stafford's fire inspector.
"We're concerned with resident safety and firefighter
safety," said Freeman. "It could make a huge difference with