To The Daily Sun,
In 1920, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation creating Fire Prevention Day. In 1922 it became Fire Prevention Week. It is always observed during the week of Oct. 9. The period was an observance to remember the Great Chicago Fire, which started on Oct. 8, 1871, and continued burning through Oct. 9. Most of the damage and destruction was on Oct. 9.
This conflagration left 250 people dead, more than 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,000 structures, and covered 2,000 acres of the city of Chicago. Interestingly, it was not the worst fire of the day, but it was the most reported fire because of where it happened.
On the same day, the Peshtigo Fire happened in Wisconsin. This forest fire remains the deadliest forest fire in U.S. history. It burned through 16 towns, destroyed 1.2 million acres, and killed 1,152 people. Within an hour of the fire starting, the town of Peshtigo was gone.
This year's theme for Fire Prevention Week is "Don't Wait — check the date! Replace smoke detectors every 10 years." This past weekend Laconia firefighter's visited more than 60 homes of local seniors and gave away dozens of smoke detectors. The program is sponsored by LRGHealthcare. A working smoke detector increases your chances of escaping a home fire by 50 percent.
Fire Prevention Week focuses on teaching children and seniors about how to prevent fires, and what to do if a fire happens. This age group are the most at risk during a fire. The U.S. fire service has done a remarkable job of preventing fires. When I started in the fire service in 1980 there were more than 1 million structure fires. Last year, there were just over a half million structure fires. In 1980 there were 5,200 fire deaths in homes, and last year that number was 2,650.
The threat of fire has been reduced, but it will never go away. We will always need firefighter's ready to respond. Please check your smoke detectors, and if you suspect a fire call 9-1-1 immediately.
Kenneth L. Erickson, Fire Chief
City of Laconia
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