By Teresa Jagodzinski
“It’s Fire Prevention Week: Prevent Home Fires!” is the theme for Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 5-11, 2008.
In 1920, President Woodrow Wilson issued the first Fire Prevention Day proclamation, and since 1922, Fire Prevention Week has been observed the week of Sunday through Saturday in which Oct. 9 falls.
Since then, fire departments all over the country have observed this week to get the message out about fire safety.
Locally, the fire departments each have their own way of promoting fire safety to their communities.
A popular way to educate the students at area schools is to bring them up close to the trucks and equipment that firemen use to fight fires.
This is done by bringing the younger students to the fire hall or by bringing the equipment to the school and talking to the students there.
Some departments also have fire prevention poster contests where the elementary students make posters to show what they know regarding fire safety.
In Winsted, two firemen visit the local schools and give presentations and information to the students.
They also take the younger classes, preschool and kindergarten, in a fire truck to the fire station and show them the equipment, trucks, and fire hall.
Fire Chief Chad Engel explained that they also show all the students what a fireman would be dressed in with his suit and air pack during a fire. They want them to know that if they see that in a fire, it is a fireman, and they shouldn’t run from it.
Firefighter Jim Condon explained that they use age-appropriate materials to educate the students on the basics of fire safety.
Condon added that he knows the message is getting to the students because he will see some of the students he’s talked to in town months after fire prevention week, and he will ask them questions about fire safety, and they always know the correct answers.
Paul Utne, one of Howard Lake’s firefighters, coordinates Howard Lake’s fire prevention information.
The Howard Lake Fire Department distributes a book to the preschool, kindergarten, and first grade about good fires and bad fires. This will educate the students so they notice the difference between the two types of fires and know that candles on a cake and a barbeque are good fires, while a house on fire or something in the house on fire is bad.
When the department visits the schools, one fireman is dressed in gear so the students can see every piece of equipment that firemen use. They also show them a fire truck and what type of equipment is on them.
The fire department also has a number of videos, each with information on different topics relating to fire safety including what to do if there is a fire; stop, drop, and roll; having a meeting place once outside; knowing 911; and knowing their home address.
The students are all given a packet to take home with fun and educational things to do relating to fire safety.
Utne also sees a favorable outcome from doing these educational talks.
“We have about 50 fires a year. Two are structural and the rest are auto accidents, grass, and brush fires,” he explained.
By educating these young students, the departments’ goal is for the students to know at a young age the dangers of fire, and the correct procedures to take if they catch on fire, or if they notice a fire. The fire departments hope this knowledge will carry with the students throughout their life.
Mike Marketon, Montrose fire chief, said that they have been educating the students on fire safety for over 20 years.
The students enjoy the experience and “they look forward to it,” he added.
He tries to show something different every year. A few years ago he showed some of the students how fast a Christmas tree would burn if it caught on fire.
He does see that the message they send to the students about fire safety is getting to them and is having an impact.
According to website, www.firepreventionweek.org, leading causes of home fires are cooking, heating, electrical, and smoking materials.
Cooking fires are the number one cause of home fires and home fire injuries. Forty percent of home fires start in the kitchen. Unattended cooking is the leading factor that contributes to these fires.
Heating equipment cause the second most home fires when items that can burn are too close to heating equipment. Keeping anything that can burn at least 3 feet away from heating equipment is recommended to prevent these types of fires.
To prevent the third cause of home fires, electrical, replace cracked and damaged electrical cords, and only use extension cords for temporary wiring.
Smoking materials like cigarettes, cigars, and pipes are the fourth leading cause of fire deaths in the United States. If you smoke, smoking outside using deep sturdy ashtrays will prevent a fire from spreading to the home.