Fire Prevention Week has been around for more than a century. Creston Fire Chief Todd Jackson said the Creston Fire Department has been doing activities during fire prevention week since before he became fire chief 13 years ago.
In 1920, President Woodrow Wilson issued the first National Fire Prevention Day proclamation, and since that time, Fire Prevention Week has been observed on the Sunday through Saturday week in which Oct. 9 falls. This year, fire prevention week is this week, and the National Fire Protection Association's theme is "Have two ways out!"
Creston Fire Captain Gary Thompson is the coordinator of fire prevention week in Creston.
"Currently, we visit classrooms from first- through fifth-grades," said Thompson. "We go to several classrooms every day. We try to have contact in some form or another for all kids in first- through fifth-grade. And, we also do our open house at the fire department."
During classroom visits, Thompson and other members of the Creston Fire Department talk to children about things that cause fires, teach them what not to do and talk about safer alternatives. For example, the firefighters will talk to children about candles, how to safely use them and show them how LED candles are a safer alternative to real candles.
Other topics the firefighters talk to students about include cooking safety, which is the number one cause of house fires, electric heater safety, electrical safety, smoking hazards, having two ways out of the house and more.
Materials like stickers, color books, pencils and magnets are purchased with money donated from businesses.This year, 58 businesses donated money to the Creston Fire Department for Fire Prevention Week 2012. Those materials are handed out to all children from preschool through sixth-grade.
Thompson said some of the materials may not be spectacular, but it helps set the message in children's minds, so they have some understanding of what to do in a critical situation.
"I build on that each year," he said. "I may hit fire safety and prevention real hard one year, then the next year we may talk about inspections, and how to find things that may be hazards. I work toward having a good escape plan, checking smoke alarms and things like that."
Fire Prevention week was established to pay tribute to the Great Chicago Fire, which started Oct. 8, 1871, and continued into, and did most of its damage on, Oct. 9. More than 250 people were killed, 100,000 left homeless, more than 17.400 structures were destroyed and more than 2,000 acres were burned.
Also, on the same day in 1871, the worst recorded forest fire in America happened in Wisconsin, and is known as the Peshtigo Fire. The fire burned 16 towns, killed 1,152 people and destroyed 1.2 million acres.
According to the National Fire Protection Association website, on the 40th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire, the Fire Marshals Association of North America, known today as the International Fire Marshals Association, decided the anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire should be observed in a way that would keep the public informed about the importance of fire prevention.
Each year since 1925, the President of the United States signs a proclamation to declare a national observance during fire prevention week.