National Fire Prevention Week: October 5th – 11th 2014


Fire Prevention Week

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 9th falls. This is because October 9th 1871 marks two of the most significant fires in American history: The Great Chicago Fire and the Peshtigo Fire of Northeast Wisconsin. The Great Chicago Fire killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 people homeless, and burned more than 17,400 structures and over 2,000 acres. While this fire may be the better-known of the two, the Peshtigo Fire was even more devastating. This fire killed 1,152 people, and scorched 16 towns and 1.2 million acres. Although both fires started on October 8th, their detrimental impacts to these communities soared on October 9th, hence the designated day/week of observance.

We are reminded this week that fire hazards are unique to other types of disasters in that they are not geographically or climate-specific and can occur anywhere. They can be initiated indoors or outdoors, in the cold weather or warm weather, and can be manmade or ignited via natural means. Fire hazards are also unique in that there are a number of preventative and mitigation measures that can be taken against this hazard which can gravely increase one’s chance of survival such as properly functioning and appropriately placed smoke detectors, sprinkler systems, planned evacuation routes, fire extinguishers, etc. In fact, according to FEMA, smoke detectors and sprinkler systems together can reduce the risk of a fatal fire by 82%.

So, what’s the risk to college campuses and student housing when it comes to fires?According to the Center for Campus Fire Safety, there are an estimated 3200 fires annually on U.S. college campuses resulting in an average of 10 fatalities per year. This includes both on and off-campus housing. Cooking causes more than 2/3 of all fire-related injuries followed by careless smoking, arson, unattended candles, and the overloading of extension cords and power strips. The following are some good safety tips for preventing fires on college campuses:

  • Cook only where permitted and never leave cooking unattended.
  • Don’t smoke. UCI is a smoke-free campus.
  • Do not overload electrical outlets.
  • Never leave candles unattended and put them out after each use.
  • Always have a primary and alternate escape plan and practice them.

There can be unique considerations when it comes to fire safety for individuals that live with disabilities or access/functional needs in student housing on campuses and these are discussed in the video clips 6-9 on the following page:

Also, the following link provides an excellent video about 9 fires that took place over the course of three weeks on different U.S. college campuses in 2012 and highlights the seriousness of this issue:

For more information on fire facts and general fire safety/prevention of this annual campaign please visit the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) @ Here you can find information for specific audiences, take a quiz and test your knowledge on fire safety, etc. You can also learn about fire safety procedures specific to UC Irvine @

Remember, working smoke alarms save lives, test yours every month!

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