Most of us can remember the song we sang as children about the Great Chicago Fire: "Late last night, when we were all in bed, Old Lady O'Leary left the lantern in the shed. And when the cow kicked over, she winked her eye and said, 'It'll be a hot time, in the old town tonight.'"
While the theory that Mrs. O'Leary's cow started the fire has been largely dispelled as myth, that tragic 1871 blaze, that killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres, did help to bring about the observance of Fire Prevention Week in our nation.
This year's observance began Sunday and runs through Saturday with the theme, "Smoke Alarms: A sound you can live with." The National Fire Protection Association selected the theme hoping to educate the public on how smoke alarms save lives and why they should be installed and maintained in every home. According to the NFPA, having working smoke alarms in your home can cut the chances of dying in a fire in half.
In 2008, the NFPA says, home fires killed 2,755 people and injured 13,160. Two of every five home fire deaths were in a home with no smoke alarms and another one in five was in a home where the alarms were not working.
Along with drawing your attention to the need for working smoke alarms, we hope fire prevention week will renew your appreciation for local firefighters.
These brave men and women are willing to risk their lives to save your life or property every day. Many of our local firefighters in Columbiana County are volunteers who perform this service for little or no pay. They must work other full-time jobs to support themselves and their families, yet most of them don't think twice about dropping what they're doing and coming to your rescue when that alarm sounds.
You'll see firefighters performing any number of emergency services besides fighting fires. They may be extracting a trapped victim of a vehicle accident, looking for a lost person, cleaning up hazardous spills or directing traffic around an accident scene or aiding other safety personnel during weather disasters.
It's amazing when you think of the many jobs firefighters perform. So, during fire prevention week check your smoke alarms and make sure you thank a local firefighter for all he or she does to protect you.