The 96th annual Fire Prevention Week is this week — Oct. 7-13 — and Libby Volunteer Fire Department has a handful of school programs planned to teach fire safety to kids in Head Start to the fourth grade.
Tuesday’s programs take place 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. at Kootenai Valley Head Start, Wednesday’s are being held at 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. at Kootenai Valley Christian School, and on Thursday volunteers will be at Libby Elementary School, according to First Assistant and Fire Marshal Steven Lauer.
Fire Prevention Week was started in 1922 by the National Fire Protection Association. According to the Association’s website — www.nfpa.org — the annual observation is held during the week of Oct. 9 “in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire, which began on October 8, 1871, and caused devastating damage.”
The website continues: “This horrific conflagration killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures, and burned more than 2,000 acres of land.”
Fire Prevention Week was proclaimed a national observance by President Calvin Coolidge in 1925, “making it the longest-running public health observance in our country,” the website states.
The goal of the week is to teach the public ways to reduce the likelihood of having a fire and how to safely escape one. Fire Chief Tom Wood said the fire department has observed Fire Prevention Week for at least the 46 years he’s been a member. Volunteer firefighter Dan Davis heads up the program.
This year’s campaign slogan is “Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware. Fire can happen anywhere.” The the National Fire Protection Association is supporting that message with the following information:
Lauer said the fire department bases its programs on the annual national campaign, and adapts its approach to be age-appropriate. One way it conveys safety information is through puppet shows, he said. Another way is by dressing up a volunteer as Sparky the Fire Dog, the Association’s mascot.
Every child will be provided an information packet and be encouraged to discuss its contents at home with family, Lauer said.
“Kids do remember these things,” he said.
Though the annual Fire Prevention Week provides a highly visible opportunity to teach fire safety with consistent messaging, Libby Volunteer Fire Department teaches safety throughout the year. Davis said he and other volunteers will occasionally train local businesses how to properly use a fire extinguisher, or give presentations at the Libby Senior Center.
They also appear regularly at the Cabinet Peaks Medical Center Health Fair and other annual community events including Logger Days and the rodeo, he said.