Be Aware: Fire Can Happen Anywhere

Fire Prevention Week is observed each year during the week of October 9th in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire, which began on October 8, 1871, and caused devastating damage. This horrific conflagration killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures, and burned more than 2,000 acres of land. (
This year’s FPW campaign, “Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware. Fire can happen anywhere,” works to educate people about three basic but essential steps to take to reduce the likelihood of having a fire––and how to escape safely in the event of one:
Look around your home for places where fires could start.  Pay special attention to cooking areas, heating equipment, electrical distribution, candles and smoking materials.
  • Cooking fires are the leading cause of home fires in the United States.
    • Remove clutter and combustible materials within close proximity to heat sources.
    • Never leave cooking unattended; closely monitor children in the kitchen when cooking.
    • Do not wear loose clothing that may inadvertently catch fire.
  • Heating fires are the second leading cause of home fires.
    • Heating equipment and chimneys should be inspected and cleaned annually by a qualified professional.
    • Remove clutter and combustible materials within three (3) feet of heating equipment.
    • Be sure to turn space heaters off before going to bed or when leaving home.
    • Never put ashes from the fireplace in plastic or paper containers and put in or near your house.  Ashes can stay hot for days.  Always put in metal containers and outside and away from the house.
  • Electrical distribution or lighting equipment are more prone to fire around the holidays.
    • Have all electric work done by a qualified electrician.
    • Extension cords are only for temporary use.
    • Never run cords across doorways or under carpets.
    • Do not overload electrical circuits or outlets.
    • Always look for products and appliances with a UL listing.
  • Candles often enhance the mood and atmosphere, but they can present a fire safety hazard if used improperly.
    • Be sure to extinguish candles before leaving home or going to sleep.
    • Keep combustible materials at least 12 inches away.
    • Candles should be used in sturdy holders that will not easily tip over.
    • Battery operated candles can provide the same ambiance, but with a much higher degree of safety.
  • Smoking materials are major causes of home fires.
    • Individuals are encouraged to smoke outdoors.
    • Be sure to completely extinguish smoking materials and discard them in non-combustible containers.
    • Keep smoking materials including matches and lighters out of the reach of children.
Listen for the sound of the smoke alarm and respond immediately.  You may have only seconds to get you and your family to safety.  Everyone in the house needs to know exactly what to do and how to respond before a fire happens.
  • Smoke detectors are the single most important life-saving device.  Smoke detectors save lives.  Properly working smoke detectors reduce your risk of dying in a fire by half.  Smoke detectors need to be properly maintained to be effective.
    • Smoke detectors should be on every level of the home and in every sleeping area.
    • Test your smoke detectors monthly.
    • Change your batteries twice a year; when you change your clock, change your batteries.
    • Smoke detectors should be replaced every 10 years. Just like any piece of equipment time makes it less reliable and effective.
Learn two ways out of every room and be sure to have a family escape plan. Nearly 80% of all fire deaths in the United States occur in private residences.  We need to better prepare ourselves and our families to keep us aware and safe.
  • Practice your plan at least once annually.
  • Be sure doors and windows leading to the outside easily open and are accessible.
  • Establish a family meeting place
  • Although the number of fires is declining, our homes actually burn faster and hotter.
    • Newer homes are built with lightweight trusses and unprotected structural members.
    • Newer homes are designed with large open floor plans that allow for rapid, uncontrolled fire growth.
    • Our homes contain and are furnished with lots of synthetic materials, plastics, and petroleum based products.  These materials burn faster and hotter and generate black, toxic smoke and gases.
Fire safety is everyone’s responsibility.  You only need to watch the local news or pick up a newspaper to see the devastating and tragic results of a fire.  While following all the fire safety recommendations above may not prevent a fire, they will help you respond appropriately and effectively and hopefully lessen the impact on you and your family.
If you have any questions about fire safety or you are interested in a home fire safety inspection, please call or email the Office of Fire Prevention at 440-580-3225 or