Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Since 1922 Fire Prevention Week has been observed to honor the victims and survivors of the Great Peshitgo and Chicago Fires. While Maine's fire history is only a shadow of the Great historic fires of this week, here in Maine fire departments all across the state work to keep the public informed about the importance of fire prevention and safety.
Just over 140 years ago, two Great fires, The Peshitgo Fire and the Chicago Fire both started on the evening of October 8th, 1871. The Great Peshitgo Fire consumed 2,400 square miles (1.5 million acres), killed over a thousand people, and continued to burn until it reached the waters of Green Bay and it met the fall rains. The Great Chicago Fire burned for two days; destroying over 3 square miles of the city, leaving over 100,000 homeless, and killing hundreds more.
Closer to home in Maine, and sixty five years ago this week, a few small woods fires were reported to the Maine Fire Service. By the middle of the month over 20 large fires were burning all across Maine. The fires consumed 175,000 acres of timberland and destroyed over a thousand homes. Sixteen citizens were killed and over 10,000 citizens were injured by the fires. Finally, cooler fall weather assisted with bringing the fires under control.
Fires happen every day and whether they consume thousands of acres of forestland, a major business, or a single family home, the greatest tragedy is when they take a life. Residential home fires are still the leading cause of fire related death and injury in the United States. Annually, fire departments respond to nearly 365,000 residential fires. These fires cause over 7 billion in direct losses, and sadly, kill more than 2600 family members. Our annual residential fire deaths are equal to the number that would die if 7 jumbo jets crashed ever year in the United States: killing all on board.
Please take some time this week to consider what a fire in your home would do to your family and your life. If possible, visit the National Fire Protection Association's Fire Prevention Week home page. Spend some time reviewing ways you and your family can prevent, and survive, a fire in your home. Note that two-thirds of reported home fire deaths occur in homes with no working fire alarm, and that something as simple as a working alarm cuts your risk of dying in a home fire in half.