History of Fire Prevention Week
One popular legend claims that Mrs. Catherine O’Leary was milking her cow when the animal kicked over a lamp, set the O’Leary’s barn on fire and started the fiery conflagration. Like any good story, the “case of the cow” has some truth to it.The great fire almost certainly started near the barn where Mrs. O’Leary kept her five milking cows. But there is no proof that O’Leary was in thebarn when the fire broke out, or that a jumpy cow sparked the blaze. Mrs. O’Leary herself swore that she’d been in bed early that night, and that the cows were also tucked in for the evening. The city of Chicago was fast to rebuild and soon began to remember the event with festivities. The Fire Marshals Association of North America believed the 40th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire should be observed in a way that would keep the public aware of the importance of fire prevention.
On Oct. 9, 1911, FMANA sponsored the first National Prevention Day. In 1920, President Woodrow Wilson issued the first national Fire Prevention Day proclamation. By 1925, President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the first National Fire Prevention Week, which was Oct. 4-10, 1925. He noted that in the previous year approximately 15,000 lives had been lost to fire in the United States. President Coolidge’s proclamation stated, “This waste results from conditions that justify a sense of shame and horror; for the greater part of it could and ought to be prevented…. It is highly desirable that every effort be made to reform the conditions that have made possible so vast a destruction of the national wealth.”
National Fire Prevention Week is always the week in which Oct. 9 falls. Each year, a specific theme is chosen and is commemorated throughout the United States.