Fire Prevention Week is being observed for its 100th year this week. This national observance week continues to educate individuals and families on how to protect themselves in case of a fire. 

Originating from the U.S., this national observance was put into play in honour of the Great Chicago Fire that occurred on October 8, 1871. The fire lasted for three days and killed more than 250 people, destroyed about 17,400 structures, and burned north of 2000 acres of land. 

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has been sponsoring Fire Prevention Week since 1922. The event always takes place during the week of October 9 to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire. By 1925, President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the week a national observance, making it the longest running one in the country.

In Canada, Fire Prevention Week was first proclaimed by the Governor-General in 1923, after the NFPA and Dominion Fire Prevention Association (DFPA) both passed resolutions during the 23rd annual NFPA meeting in Ottawa, back in May, 1919. The two groups urged governments in the United States and Canada to support the campaign for a common Fire Prevention Day.

The week always has a theme that the NFPA promotes and it delves into critical fire issues that are based on data collected by the organization. The theme, according to NFPA Senior Director of Public Education Andrea Vastis, is always made to be actionable so that people are empowered and educated. 

“It needs to be universal, something that applies across geographies and populations,” she said. 

“For this year, when we were looking at the 100-year anniversary, and we asked ourselves ‘what is different 100 years later?’ There are many strides that we’ve made in the world of fire safety but the big change is that home fires burn hotter and faster than ever, leaving less time to get out safely.” 

The theme for this year’s Fire Prevention Week is ‘Fire won’t wait. Plan your escape.’ It focuses on the idea of home escape planning. According to NFPA data, 75 percent of all U.S. fire deaths occur in homes and according to Statistics Canada, an average of 220 fire-related deaths occurred between 2010 and 2020, with 92% of unintentional fire-related deaths taking place in a residential area.

“It is absolutely critical because of the way that homes are constructed, the furnishings, and the contents that we have in our homes,” said NFPA Canada Regional Director Laura King.

“They are all very combustible and toxic. Because we build our homes bigger with more open spaces and stuff it with things that are man made and burn quickly, it is critical that people have Home Fire Escape Plans.”

NFPA asks people to create a Home Fire Escape Plan and to practice the routine at least twice a year, once during the day and once at night, so everyone in a household is comfortable with the process. 

“You have less than two minutes to get out of your homes once smoke alarms sounds,” said King.

“If you don’t have a plan, then it can be chaotic. When there is a fire, the smoke turns black and it’s not easy to see. We see it on T.V. all the time and it looks like we can simply run out the door but that is not true. We want to make people aware that the fire is deadly, the fire is hot, and the fire is fast.”

Fire Prevention Week 2022 runs from October 9 to October 15. For more information about the event and to get safety information and resources, please visit www.firepreventionweek.org.