By Jennifer Kotila
DASSEL, COKATO, MN More than 360,000 home fires were reported in the United States in 2009, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
The best defense against home fires is a good offense, which is why the Dassel and Cokato fire departments are teaming up with NFPA this week to let the communities know: “It’s Fire Prevention Week. Protect your Family from Fire!”
Throughout the week, students at both Cokato and Dassel elementary schools will be learning what they can do to prevent fires from happening in their homes.
Students in kindergarten through second grade at both elementaries will get to tour the fire barns in their respective towns.
Both schools will also be recieving a visit from local firefighters, who will teach them how to prevent fires in their home.
The Dassel Fire Department, also in conjuntion with Fire Prevention Week, will have its annual pork chop dinner Friday, Oct. 14 from 5 to 8 p.m.
The Dassel Fire Department has a grease fire trailer that it will be using to demonstrate what to do, and not to do, in the case of a grease fire in the home.
Dassel firefighters went to a training in Vadnais Heights, which was sponsored by the Minnesota Fire Chiefs Association. and wanted to share this important lesson with its own community.
Demonstrations will be conducted at 5:30, 6:30, and 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14.
Tips for preventing fires
This year’s fire prevention campaign focuses on preventing the leading causes of home fires cooking, heating and electrical equipment, candles, and smoking materials.
It also urges people to protect their homes and families with life-saving technology and planning.
Nearly all of the 2,565 deaths in home fires could have been prevented by taking a few simple precautions, like having working smoke alarms and a home fire escape plan, keeping things that can burn away from the stove, and always turning off space heaters before going to bed, according to the NFPA.
Fire is a dangerous opponent, but by anticipating the hazards, one is much less likely to be one of the nearly 13,000 people injured in home fires each year.
The following tips are provided by the NFPA for protecting one’s home and family from fire:
• Stay in the kitchen while frying, grilling, or broiling food. If leaving the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
• Keep anything that can burn at least 3 feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
• Have a 3-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
• Replace or repair damaged or loose electrical cords.
• If a smoker, smoke outside.
• Use deep, wide ashtrays on a sturdy table.
• Blow out all candles when leaving the room, or going to bed. Avoid the use of candles in the bedroom and other areas where people may fall asleep.
While preventing home fires is always a number-one priority, it is not always possible, according to the NFPA.
People need to provide the best protection to keep their homes and families safe in the event of a fire, which can be achieved by developing an escape plan that is practiced regularly and equipping homes with life-saving technologies like smoke alarms and home fire sprinklers.
If there is a fire in the home, the following tips will help keep families safe:
• Install smoke alarms inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of the home (including the basement).
• Interconnect all smoke alarms in the home so when one sounds, they all sound.
• Test smoke alarms at least monthly, and replace all smoke alarms when they are 10 years old, or sooner if not responding when tested.
• Make sure everyone in the home knows how to respond if the smoke alarm sounds.
• Pull together everyone in the household and make a plan, walking through the home and inspecting all possible ways out.
Households with children should consider drawing a floor plan of the home and marking two ways out of each room, including windows and doors.
• If building or remodeling, consider installing home fire sprinklers.
History of Fire Prevention Week
Fire Prevention Week was established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire that began Oct. 8, 1871, and lasted two days, doing most of its damage on the second day. The fire killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures, and burned more than 2,000 acres.
Although the Great Chicago Fire was the most well-known blaze that day, it was not the biggest. That distinction goes to the Peshtigo Fire, the most devastating forest fire in US history.
The Peshtigo Fire, which also started Oct. 8, 1871, roared through northeastern Wisconsin and through 16 towns, killed 1,152 people, and scorched 1.2 million acres before it came to an end.
Historical accounts of the Peshtigo Fire say the blaze was started when railroad workers clearing land for tracks unintentionally started a brush fire.
Both the Great Chicago Fire and the Peshtigo Fire produced countless tales of heroism and bravery by those who survived. The fires also changed the way 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 International Fire Marshals Association) decided that the anniversary should be observed in a way that would keep the public informed about the importance of fire prevention.
Over the years, the anniversary became more official. In 1920, President Woodrow Wilson issued the first National Fire Prevention proclamation. Since 1922, Fire Prevention Week has been observed Sunday through Saturday the week in which Oct. 9 falls.
For more information about smoke alarms, fire safety, fire prevention, or how to set up a fire escape plan, visit www.firepreventionweek.org.