Photo Credit: Orange County Fire Authority
Fire Prevention Week (October 5 – 11) rolled into full swing yesterday and in tribute to communities throughout the nation taking proactive efforts to reduce their risk, our wildland fire operations division will highlight five case studies during the week from the recently released Guide to Fire Adapted Communities.
Before we get to today’s featured case study, I wanted to do a quick refresher on how and when Fire Prevention Week began. It was established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire, the tragic 1871 conflagration that killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres. The fire began on October 8, but continued into (and did most of its damage) on October 9, 1871.
While the Great Chicago Fire was the best-known blaze to start during this fiery two-day stretch, it wasn't the biggest! That distinction goes to the Peshtigo Fire, the most devastating forest fire in American history. The fire, which also occurred on October 8th, 1871, and roared through Northeast Wisconsin, burning down 16 towns, killing 1,152 people, and scorching 1.2 million acres before it ended.
Historical accounts of the fire say that the blaze began when several railroad workers clearing land for tracks unintentionally started a brush fire. Some survivor accounts said the fast-moving flames whipped through the area like a tornado. It was the small town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin that suffered the worst damage. Within an hour, the entire town had been destroyed.
Those two fire events changed the way firefighters and public officials thought about fire safety and on the 40th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire, the Fire Marshals Association of North America (today known as the International Fire Marshals Association), decided that the anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire should henceforth be observed not with festivities, but in a way that would keep the public informed about the importance of fire prevention. In 1920, President Woodrow Wilson issued the first National Fire Prevention Day proclamation, and since 1922, Fire Prevention Week has been observed on the Sunday through Saturday period in which October 9 falls. According to the National Archives and Records Administration's Library Information Center, Fire Prevention Week is the longest running public health and safety observance on record. The President of the United States has signed a proclamation proclaiming a national observance during that week every year since 1925.
Here’s a peek at a few Fire Prevention Week themes over the years:
1927: Why this Mad Sacrifice to Fire?
1928: FIRE…Do Your Part – Stop This Waste!
1929: FIRE – The Nation’s Greatest Menace! Do Your Part to Stop This Waste!
1930: Fight Fire Waste with Fire Prevention. Do Your Part
1931: Do Your Part to Prevent Fire
1932 and 1933: Your Life - Your Property
1934: Now War on Fire
1935: What Would Fire Mean to You?
1936: Stop It
1937: Help Prevent Fires
1938: Is This Your Tomorrow?
1939: Was Somebody Careless?
1940: Keep Fire in Its Place
1941: Defend Against Fire
With that bit of history as a segue into this week’s series of blogs on successful wildfire risk reduction stories, today we’re highlighting work done by the Orange County Fire Authority. Check out the Guide to Fire Adapted Communities for more case studies on communities taking action to reduce their wildfire risk.
Case Study: Collaboration for Wildfire Protection in a Populated Area
The Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) is a regional fire service agency that serves 23 cities plus unincorporated areas in a large California county with over 1.6 million residents. OCFA provides services from 71 fire stations and 10 reserve stations, including defensible space assessments for individual properties, planning and development services for new projects, community education, cooperative planning for wildfire defense, and a systematic approach to wildfire risk reduction in member communities. OCFA also implements Ready, Set, Go! in neighborhoods, maintains a fuels reduction corridor between wildlands and developments, and publishes wildfire risk maps for the entire county.