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Fire Prevention Week is Oct. 5-11
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Oct. 5-11 is National Fire Prevention Week. This year's theme is "Prevent Home Fires!"

National Fire Prevention week began in 1871 as a result of the "Great Chicago Fire" which, on Oct. 8, killed 300 people, left 100,000 people homeless and burned some 17,000 structures. It was an event not to be forgotten, so the Fire Marshals Association of North America commemorated it each year thereafter. In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed Oct. 4-10 as the first National Fire Prevention Week. It was for good reason, since fires have been the cause of countless deaths and incalculable costs associated with property loss. Sadly, the majority of all fires are preventable, but it requires the population to understand and practice fire prevention techniques. Each year, hundreds of thousands of homes across the nation burn, leading to hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries.

In 2007, there were 399,000 structure fires, with 2,865 deaths, 13,600 injuries and $7.4 billion in property loss/damage. The total number of responses to fire calls by public fire departments was 1,557,500! The idea of having a national Fire Prevention awareness week therefore has clear purpose.

The leading cause of fires is kitchen, cooking-related. Heating systems, electrical and smoking materials constitute the remaining majority of home fire causes. With the exception of nature-caused fires, for example lightening strikes, most all fires, and hence, injuries and deaths, are preventable. Kitchen fires are common because people are often multi-tasking and thus become prone to forgetting about pots on the stove and things baking in the oven. Who has not experienced that occasion when, preparing a meal, you get side-tracked by visiting a neighbor, a quick run to the store, or any number of other distractions. It does not take long for a kitchen fire to completely engulf a home, and if there are kids or other occupants inside, the situation can quickly turn into a heart-breaking disaster.

The top days for house fires are Halloween, Christmas, New Years and the Fourth of July. It is therefore wise to be extra careful during those time periods. House fires tend to generally be more numerous during the winter, in any event, because people are relying on various kinds of heaters, including fireplaces, to keep their homes warm. Any heat source can lead to fires because of human error (misuse) or equipment flaws and failures.

The prevention of fires is largely a common sense issue; however, life's pressures, forgetfulness and carelessness can quickly lead to disaster in the home. Hopefully with some of these awareness-raising insights, you can spare yourselves the heartache of losing your home and incurring injuries or deaths as a result of a preventable fire. If you wish more fire prevention information, please contact your local fire department. In Ceres the number to call is 538-5701. Firefighters are very prevention-minded, and they will be happy to assist you, regardless of what community you live in. In the spirit of National Fire Prevention Week, I wish you the best of luck and a safe future.