Friday, October 7, 2011

What will you do to protect your family from fire during Fire Prevention week this year?

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What will you do to protect your family from fire during Fire Prevention week this year? 
By Raymond Kay
Acting Chief, Orland Fire Protection District

Bringing special public attention to protecting lives and property from the dangers of fire has been a national campaign since 1920 in the United States called Fire Prevention Week which this year begins October 9 through Oct. 15.

Fire prevention week originated in 1922 and is always scheduled for the week that includes October 9th.  In 1871 on October 8th the Great Chicago Fire was started.  The fire burned for some period of time but the most significant damage took place on October 9th.   This conflagration killed more than 250 people, left approximately 100,000 people homeless, destroyed over 17,000 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres.  This tragic fire became the driving force behind the Fire Prevention Week initiative.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) fire prevention theme this year, Protect Your Family From Fire, speaks to three recent close calls.  On three different days over the course of the last three months families narrowly escaped from the dangers of fire.

In July, seven residents, adults and children alike were startled from their sleep well after midnight by several good Samaritans who saw that the attached garage was well involved in fire.  The strangers along with several Orland Park Police officers woke the residents and helped them to safety.  The fire in this case was only minutes away from spreading into the children’s bedroom when they escaped.

On a beautiful August Saturday, just after 12 pm, a fire erupts in the garage of a four unit townhouse.  The resident is awake and moving about in a seemingly normal day.  The fire moves so quickly that he escapes with only the clothes on his back.  Two of the four attached units are damaged by the fire.  Most importantly, nobody was injured from the smoke and flames.

It is Patriot Day, September 11, the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks upon our country.  In between a number of memorial services, 8:30 in the morning fire strikes in the basement of another townhouse, the family is still asleep.  An adult smells smoke, realizes that the house is on fire, calls 911 for help and wakes other adults and the children guiding them out of the burning structure.  Luckily, there are no injuries.  In this case, there are no working smoke detectors.

Three groups of people were fortunate this summer; they all experienced a close call narrowly avoiding injury or death from smoke and fire.  The incidents shared here all took place at different times of day.  Some residents were fast asleep and others wide awake.  The fires started in different parts of the home. 

Luckily the only common thread among these fires is that nobody was injured.  All of these fires could have had very different, tragic outcomes.

Fire can strike at any time.  You have the opportunity to prevent fires, quickly detect smoke or fire and the ability plan your escape.  Use resources like the Orland Fire Protection District website ( or the NFPA website ( to learn more about:

-      A Family Fire Safety Checklist – where adults and kids can play a role in your home’s fire safety
-      Smoke Detectors – Change your batteries twice per year
-      Practice your escape plane – Exercise your plan with the whole family twice each year

Happily, the fires from this summer did not result in any injuries.  Visit the websites provided, download your free information and please take the advice of the NFPA - Protect Your Family From Fire.