Fire Prevention Week commemorates the Great Chicago Fire that occurred 1871. This tragic fire killed over 250 people, leaving 100,000 homeless. The fire destroyed over 17,400 structures and over 2,000 acres burned. This monstrous fire blazed for two days. It is hard for me to even imagine the devastation. In memory of that tragic fire, fire prevention week brings awareness to fire safety practices and provides educational material in the hopes of preventing future fires. Luckily, I have not been a victim of a fire's potentially devastating effects, but I do have an embarrassing fire story of my own to share.

While my husband and I were dating, he often came to visit me in my little apartment. When he wasn't visiting I ate oatmeal or went out to eat for dinner; so you can imagine my skills as a home cook were nonexistent. As many who wish to woo their future spouses, I was going to make a complicated meal. This plan involved pan frying a beautiful piece of fish. I let the oil in the pan get WAY to hot and in an instant, it was on fire. My first inclination was to put water on it (DO NOT DO THIS). My now husband quickly steps in, yells "WE NEED SAND." Then rapidly turns down the heat, opens cabinets, grabs the baking soda (great alternative when you have misplaced your bag of sand in the kitchen), pours it on the oil fire - instantly putting it out. He then turns to me with a very serious tone and declares, "What would you have done if the cockpit lit on fire, just stand there?" I calmly replied that no one in their right mind would let me fly a jet, and if I indeed picture myself in that situation there would definitely be panic involved. We chuckle about it now, but it could have been a very scary incident. I, being a beginner cook, should have known what to do in the case of an oil fire.
According to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), "Cooking has been the leading cause of reported home fires and home fire injuries since 1990. Unattended cooking was by far the leading cause of these fires; two-thirds of home cooking fires began with ignition of cooking materials, including food, cooking oil, fat, or grease." Do not let this be you. Ensure you do not leave items in the oven or on the stove (yes, this even means in the toaster) unattended. Additionally, ensure you have a kitchen fire extinguisher close at hand for emergency use.

Heating is the second leading cause of home fire deaths. Ensure your chimney is cleaned annually and keep flammable items away from heating equipment, such as furniture, mattress, bedding or clothing. Finally, to prevent electrical fires, avoid overloading outlets by plugging only one high-wattage appliance into each outlet at a time.

Above all, having working smoke alarms dramatically increases your chances of surviving a fire. Install fire alarms outside each bedroom and on every level of the home, and check their batteries every six months. It is essential to have a home fire escape plan that everyone in your family is familiar with and has practiced.

It is extremely important to be diligent about protecting your home and educating your family to prevent home fires. Please take some time to check out some of the great websites below:

Safety Tip Sheets (for all the fire starters you can think of!)
National Fire Protection Association
Protect Your Home from Wild Fires
Fire Safety Checklist