On Oct. 8, 1871, fire broke out on DeKoven Street in Chicago, Ill. — possibly in a barn owned by Patrick and Catherine O’Leary.
An apocryphal story and song blame the fire on Mrs. O’Leary’s cow, kicking over a lantern. Whatever the cause, the flames rapidly spread through the wooden structures of the Chicago of the day.
The fire raged for two days, generating fire tornadoes and a firewall that moved at up to 160 km/h. By the time the flames were extinguished, the Great Chicago Fire had killed approximately 300 people, destroyed more than 17,000 homes and structures in a nine-square-kilometre area, and left 100,000 people homeless.
The timing of Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 7-13, is a reference to the Great Chicago Fire.
Building codes and materials have since changed dramatically, fire suppression services have been improved, but the message is still: “Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware — fire can happen anywhere.”
The Bradford West Gwillimbury Fire & Emergency Services held its Fire Prevention Week open house at its Melbourne Drive headquarters on Thursday evening.
Families were invited to drop in, meet the firefighters, and learn more about fire prevention, the importance of smoke alarms and having a home fire escape plan.
Kids could meet Sparky the Fire Dog, tour the Fire Safety House trailer, extinguish a digital fire with a digital fire extinguisher, and pick up freebies that included Junior Fire Chief hats and reflective Halloween loot bags. And there were cookies.
One of the biggest thrills for kids was still getting to sit in the driver’s seat of a fire truck with the lights flashing.
“It’s been very well attended,” said BWG Fire Chief Kevin Gallant.