As a way to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, Fire Prevention Week has been observed since 1922 during the week that encompasses the date of October 9. Although Chicago has the best-known fire on that date– the Peshtigo Fire in Wisconsin also started on that very same day. It was the most devastating forest fire in American History with 16 towns destroyed; 1,152 people killed and 1.2 million acres scorched. So at least in my mind - Fire Prevention Week is a commemoration of both an urban conflagration and a wildland fire.
The types of activities that occur during Fire Prevention Week have evolved over the past ninety years; and today it’s become a time when fire departments across the nation organize educational events and activities that highlight their year-round commitment to fire safety.
In the wildland fire education venue – there’s often an unspoken opinion that Fire Prevention Week doesn’t pertain to wildland fire outreach efforts and we let it pass us by. This year, I challenge wildfire educators everywhere to embrace Fire Prevention Week and piggyback on the top-of-mind awareness prevalent during that time period. Take full advantage of the high-level interest around fire safety topics and the corresponding messaging on both local and national levels. This year’s campaign theme is “Have 2 Ways Out” – and it focuses on the importance of fire escape planning and practice. It’s a theme that easily fits into “both worlds” of fire safety education.
Since fall is the season for all things football, look at Fire Prevention Week using this analogy…neither the AFC or the NFC would train year-round and then intentionally forego the Super Bowl; so why would wildland fire educators not make a play during the longest running public health and safety observance on record?
Think of it this way - Fire Prevention Week is the Super Bowl for all fire safety education and outreach. Get in the game and score some points in your community!
To access free Firewise materials and resources visit http://firewise.org/catalog/. Get more information from NFPA on this year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign including details on how you can participate in an online registry that brings fire departments and community members together to support fire safety education programs.