Quandary fans the flames for Fire Prevention Week
Why is this Fire Prevention Week? Wouldn’t August be more logical?
True enough, the heat of the summer seems to be a good reason to recognize fire dangers, however this is a long-standing tradition that you probably won’t be changing anytime soon. The week that contains Oct. 9 has been recognized as Fire Prevention Week since 1922. Why this date? Well, for that answer we’re going to go all the way back — even before one of my relatives cursed the Cubs — to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Yes back to that fateful day when a brain-dead bovine kicked a lamp in Mrs. O’Leary’s barn and set all of Chicago ablaze. At least that’s one version of the story, though Mrs. O’Leary always claimed she tucked in early for the night (tell it to the polygraph, lady), she has been blamed most often. Other versions of the story include two kids sneaking cigarettes by the barn or a vindictive neighbor whose rage got a little carried away. Either way, the Great Chicago Fire began late on Oct. 8, 1871 and burned through the night doing its greatest damage on Oct. 9 when all of Chicago fell to the flames.
One other theory on the fire’s origin, though potentially crack-pot, is very entertaining. You see many don’t realize that the Chicago fire wasn’t even the biggest blaze to roar to life on that day. There was a small fire in Michigan and the largest fire of the day occurred in Peshtigo, Wisconsin. To date, the Peshtigo Fire is still the largest forest fire this country has ever seen. Once it started, it destroyed 16 towns and 1.2 million acres; 1,152 people were also killed according to the National Fire Protection Association. Some claim that all of these fires were started by one meteorite that crashed to Earth lighting the midwest in one swell swoop. To me, that sounds just like a homo sapien, if blaming the cow doesn’t work, it must have been from outerspace, right?
Regardless of who or what —my money is on the kiddos with the firesticks — caused the Great Chicago Fire, Fire Prevention Week stands as a reminder for just how quickly a few flames can get out of hand. So before you think that these cooler temperatures mean we’re out of the woods, take a breath, think of O’Leary’s besmirched barn animals, and make sure your campfire is out before you ride off into the sunset.
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