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Honouring our firefighters

This week we celebrate Fire Prevention Week. OK, perhaps celebrate isn’t the right word. The purpose of Fire Prevention Week is more like a kick in the butt reminding us to take proper precautions to prevent fires.

This week we celebrate Fire Prevention Week. OK, perhaps celebrate isn’t the right word.

The purpose of Fire Prevention Week is more like a kick in the butt reminding us to take proper precautions to prevent fires.

This is something many of us overlook in our busy day-to-day lives and we shouldn’t because the effects of a fire can be truly devastating.

If we are lucky, we only lose material possessions, but unfortunately, the consequences are often much more life-changing, as in a serious injury or even death.

That is why the United States President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the first Fire Prevention Week in 1925. It has been a yearly fixture ever since.

It is observed on the Sunday through Saturday period in which Oct. 9 falls, in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire in 1871.

The fire killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres.

According to urban legend, the cause of the fire was a cow owned by Mrs. Catherine O’Leary. In most versions of the story, it is said the cow kicked over a kerosene lamp that started a fire that quickly spread until the whole city was ablaze.

Is the story true? The fact there was a Great Chicago Fire in 1871 is undeniable, but as for its cause, that remains a mystery.

After the fire, Chicago Tribune reporter Michael Ahern published a report that the fire had started when a cow kicked over a lantern while it was being milked. The woman was not named, but Catherine O’Leary was identified. Illustrations and caricatures soon appeared depicting Mrs. O’Leary with the cow.

In 1893, however, Ahern admitted he had made the story up.

Nevertheless, the moral of the story is how a seemingly innocuous act can have devastating consequences is as important as it ever was.

It is also why it is so important to take the time and look at the pictures of the brave men and women who volunteer not only giving their time but on occasion putting their lives on the line to fight local fires.

And they are not alone — 75 per cent of all Alberta firefighters are volunteers.

Every year during Fire Prevention Week, the department stresses the importance of making sure families have a home fire escape plan, working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, et cetera.

Take heed to this advice, because what better way is there to thank and honour our firefighters than doing our utmost to make sure we do not need their services?


Barry Kerton

About the Author: Barry Kerton

Barry Kerton is the managing editor of the Barrhead Leader, joining the paper in 2014. He covers news, municipal politics and sports.
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