City of Suffolk, SFD marks Fire Prevention Week

Published 9:53 pm Monday, October 9, 2023

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Suffolk City Council and the Suffolk Fire Department held a special presentation recognizing Fire Prevention Week. During its Wednesday, Oct. 4 meeting, Suffolk Fire Chief Michael Barakey accepted the proclamation for Fire Prevention Week, which will be observed on the week of Oct. 9, from Sunday, Oct. 8 through Saturday, Oct. 14. 

The week was made to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which killed over 250 people and left 100,000 homeless while destroying over 17,400 structures and burning over 2,000 acres. The fire began on Oct. 8 of that year while continuing and doing damage on Oct. 9.

Suffolk City Clerk Erika S. Dawley read the proclamation before Mayor Michael D. Duman presented it to Barakey.

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“Whereas our Suffolk first responders are dedicated to reducing the occurrence of home fires and related injuries through prevention and protection education, and whereas the 2023 Fire Prevention Week theme ‘Cooking safety starts with you. Pay attention to fire prevention’ effectively reminds us that it’s important to have and practice a home fire escape plan,” Dawley read. “Now, therefore I, Michael D. Duman, the Mayor of Suffolk, Virginia, do hereby proclaim Oct. 8, 2023, through Oct. 14, 2023, as Fire Prevention Week and encourage all residents to create their escape plans, practice their plan frequently and to participate in the many public safety activities sponsored by the Suffolk Fire Marshal’s office.” 

Suffolk Fire Chief Michael Barakey gave a speech following the proclamation.

“Today is a great opportunity to educate our citizens on the dangers and hazards associated with cooking fires as this year’s theme, as we just heard fire prevention week is ‘Cooking safety starts with you. Pay attention to fire prevention,’” Barakey said. “Since 2022, 604 calls for service in the city are related to cooking incidents … Just yesterday, two of our residents were displaced after a kitchen fire. I ask that our citizens pay attention while cooking, don’t get distracted in the kitchen, and have working smoke detectors that will alarm and alert our residents early into the smoke reduction so that they can get out safely.”

Suffolk Fire Marshal Chris Cornwall followed and expanded upon the kitchen fire incident, saying it could have been “so much worse.”

“As we interviewed those citizens, they were able to share with us how they were alerted of the fire in their kitchen just a few rooms away by their smoke detectors. So it’s proof to us that they work, and as simple as they are, as inexpensive as they are, they save lives. It’s a proven fact, again and again and again, that they work, and there’s no reason why every citizen in the city shouldn’t have one,” Cornwall said. “We just encourage and urge every citizen to give us a call [at] 757-514-4540, we’ll be glad to arrange not only the smoke detector for you but the installation of it for you in your home.”

Before he left the podium, Cornwall expressed how much of an honor and privilege it is to work with the men and women of SFD. 

“I didn’t tell them I was going to do this, but it is just that. I’m proud of everything that they do each and every day, for not only for Suffolk Fire and Rescue but for our City’s Fire Marshal’s office. We’re lacking two tonight – my Office Assistant and our City’s Fire Protection Plans Reviewer – but I do want them to know that I appreciate each and everything they do for us,” he said. “365 days a year, not just Fire Prevention Week. They eat, sleep and breathe this stuff so that our citizens can be safe each and every day, and I want to thank them.”