BETHLEHEM For any family, a fire can well be a nightmare scenario. In a matter of minutes, a lifetime worth of memories and treasured possessions — or much worse, loved ones — can be wiped out.
Tragically, most home fires could have been prevented, and every year in October, the National Fire Protection Association and fire departments aim to remind of that simple fact during Fire Prevention Week.
The week is scheduled every year to coincide with the anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which famously killed more than 250 people and destroyed much of the city on Oct. 8 and 9 of that year.
The NFPA points out that this well-known American blaze wasn’t the biggest or most deadly on record, though. The distinction belongs to the Peshtigo Fire, a forest fire that immolated 16 towns in Wisconsin and had a death toll 1,152 people. Remarkably, this fire also broke out on Oct. 8, 1871.
The tradition started in the ‘20s, and while Fire Prevention Weeks has morphed through many forms the message has always remained constant: fires are a preventable tragedy.
“The big takeaway is that people can make their families safer from fire by taking some very simple steps,” said Lorraine Carli, a spokeswoman for the NFPA.
A recent report conducted by the NFPA showed while there were fewer fires in 2010 when compared to the previous year, more people died as a result of them.
Fire departments responded to 1,331,500 fires in 2010, the lowest number since 1977, but there were 3,120 civilian fire deaths and 17,720 civilian injuries. Both figures are a 4 percent jump from the previous year’s statistics.
The American Red Cross, which also promotes Fire Prevention Month every October, reported that of the 74,000 disasters nationwide it responded to last year, 93 percent were fire related.