Firefighters emphasizing prevention this week

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 8, 2002

Ever since &uot;Mrs. O’Leary’s cow&uot; kicked over that lantern on October 1871, this nation has observed &uot;Fire Prevention Week&uot; with educational programs to promote public awareness of fire dangers and fire prevention measures.

According to Suffolk Fire Captain Jim Judkins, no one is truly sure whether it was truly Catherine O’Leary’s cow that started the &uot;Great Chicago Fire of Oct. 8, 1871, but he is positive that public safety awareness programs work and they can save lives.

&uot;All this week, beginning Sunday, Oct. 6 through 12, we will be observing the 80th anniversary of &uot;National Fire Prevention Week,&uot; and we’d like to ask our community to join us in what has been the longest running public health and safety observance on record,&uot; said Judkins. &uot;Learning more about fire prevention and the dangers of fire can be invaluable.&uot;

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Suffolk’s Fire Chief Mark R. Outlaw said the intent is to raise public awareness of fire prevention measures that should be employed by everyone.

Judkins added that more than 250 people died in the 27 hours the Chicago fire consumed the entire city, it also left 10,000 people homeless, leveled 17,000 structures, and charred more than 10,000 acres.

&uot;While the origin of the fire has never been confirmed, there has always been a great deal of speculation over how it started,&uot; said Judkins. &uot;The story goes that the cow kicked over something like a lantern with a fire in it and it caught fire in the barn and it spread across the city. They didn’t have the fire-fighting equipment back then that is available to us today, but only bucket brigades. There was no way they could have saved the city.&uot;

Judkins also noted that the city of Suffolk has twice burned in its history. He has many photos of fires in the city, especially those that took peanut storage facilities like the old Suffolk Peanut Company and the one at one of the Birdsong storage facilities years ago.

Those pictures and more will be on display at Suffolk’s &uot;25th Silver Anniversary Peanut Fest,&uot; which begins at 2 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 10. Members of the fire department, including Judkins, will have a tent at the festival where there will be information on fire prevention and ways to protect homes with devices like smoke detectors.

Suffolk’s Fire Marshal Capt. Arthur G. Barrett said this year’s theme for the campaign is &uot;Team Up for Fire Safety.&uot; It touches on three simple but critical lessons that everyone can learn, he said.

&uot;We should all know how to install and test a smoke alarm, and we need to practice with our families how to escape in case a fire breaks out in your home,&uot; said Barrett. &uot;Also, every family should have an escape plan and a set place in which to meet with each other if a fire occurs in the home. Also, families should know how to hunt for home fire hazards.&uot;

The Suffolk Fire Department will be observing this important week by inviting school children to the fire stations around the city, and fire officials will speak at civic groups, churches, and at any club where people are interested in learning fire prevention. They will also be partnering with businesses, sports teams, the Suffolk Chapter of the American Red Cross, health agencies and senior citizens groups.

&uot;Every fire safety team begins with the firefighters,&uot; said Judkins. &uot;But these local heroes can not do it alone. They need kids, parents, and grandparents to team up with them to make that team effort a success, ensuring that families are more prepared than ever to prevent or survive a home fire.&uot;

For more information on National Fire Prevention Week, visit any fire station, or call Judkins at 923-2110. Also, to make arrangements for a fire official to visit with your group, call the captain.