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National Fire Prevention Week aims to save lives

Smoke Detector SafetyFire prevention and safety should be big topics for everyone, particularly those who operate fire-burning appliances like fireplaces and stoves in their homes. National Fire Prevention Week, October 5-11, 2014 is an opportunity for all of us to remind ourselves just how important fire safety is.

This week dedicated to fire prevention and safety was first proclaimed in 1920 by President Woodrow Wilson and has been commemorated annually since 1922. What was the impetus for designating a week to this critical cause?

Mrs. O’Leary’s cow.

The Great Chicago Fire

Older folks probably have heard stories about this infamous cow; younger individuals may have no clue. So here’s how the legend grew out of one of the worst fire disasters our country has ever known.

On October 8, 1871, a Chicago cow belonging to one Catherine O’Leary is said to have kicked over a lamp and set the barn on fire. One thing led to another, and before you knew it, much of the city of Chicago was engulfed in flames. More than 250 people lost their lives, 100,000 were rendered homeless, and more than 17,000 structures and 2,000 acres were destroyed in this fire that burned out of control for two days.

Poor Mrs. O’Leary got a bum rap for this. In time the myth of her cow being responsible for the Great Chicago Fire fortunately was debunked. Yet nobody knows for sure how the fire started, with speculation ranging from two boys smoking cigarettes to a meteorite falling on Chicago.

Do your part in fire prevention

Perhaps the best thing to take away from the story of Mrs. O’Leary’s cow is that fire spreads fast, and proper safety measures can prevent this from happening. One of the best measures we know of today is the smoke alarm, which is the theme of this year’s National Fire Prevention Week.

Sponsored by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Fire Protection Week encourages people to install and maintain smoke alarms throughout their dwellings. Many people follow only part of that directive: they install the alarms and then forget about them. But a smoke detector can only save lives and prevent the spread of fire if it works, which is why the NFPA recommends they be tested every month. The simple act of replacing a battery is nothing compared to the disaster that could result from a faulty alarm.

For those with fireplaces and stoves, fire prevention goes further than installing smoke alarms. These hearth appliances should be cleaned and inspected regularly by professionals, with special attention paid to chimneys, which are responsible for more than 25,000 house fires each year.

In addition, care should always be taken when burning a fire in your home. Where fireplaces are concerned, this includes making sure the firebox is completely sealed by a protective screen or sturdy doors.

United Fireplace & Stove and its member stores across North America are committed to fire safety and prevention. We want each of our customers to enjoy their fireplaces and stoves in a safe and enjoyable manner, not just during National Fire Prevention Week, but all year long. If you’re thinking of adding a handsome fireplace or stove to your home, stop in one of our UFS member stores to check out some models and get some great fire safety tips from our experts.

Don’t forget to teach kids about the importance of fire safety, too! Here’s a great video discussing Smoke Detectors and Fireplace Safety:


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