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Before I get on to my weekly column, don’t forget that we have less than 24 hours of voting left to go in the So You Think You Can Write contest:

It’s getting tense!


This article first appeared in the Albion New Era during 2009’s Fire Prevention Week.


Fire Prevention Week is here, a time in which we try to – wait for it – prevent fires. Of course, Fire Prevention Week should go on year round, but if it did we’d have to change the name. So, to give you something you can take with you all year, here’s a quick quiz to see if you know … oh, just relax, nobody’s grading you.

1. Fire Prevention Week was begun after a huge fire burned:
a. The City of Chicago.
b. The entire town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin.
c. A huge swath of Wisconsin and an even larger area of Michigan, all the way from one Great Lake to another.
d. Donald Trump’s hair.

The answer: All of the above. The most devastating forest fires in American history roared through Northeast Wisconsin and lower Michigan on October 8, 1871, leveling at least 16 communities, killing 1,152 people, and blackening 1.2 million acres of land – those are the conservative estimates. The disaster didn’t make much impact on the national news because of that little dust-up going on in Chicago at the same time. I was just kidding about Donald Trump.

2. President Woodrow Wilson issued the first National Fire Prevention Day proclamation in:
a. 1492.
b. 1920.
c. 1980
d. OMG! Nobody told me I’d have to memorize dates!

The answer: d. Meanwhile, since the early 20’s Fire Prevention Week has come during the same week as the anniversary of the Chicago and Peshtigo fires.

3. On the spot where the Great Chicago Fire began now stands:
a. The Chicago Fire Department Fire Academy
b. A shrine to Oprah.
c. Barack Obama’s birth certificate.
d. The burial spot of Donald Trump’s hair.

The answer: a. Can you sense the irony?

4. Okay, here’s an easy true of false question:
The Great Chicago Fire first burned down the O’Leary home.

The answer: False. Although the fire started in the O’Leary barn, a lucky breeze spared their house. However, rumors that Mrs. O’Leary’s firebug cow kicked over a lamp made them a pariah at the Homeowner’s Association meetings for the next 130 years. Later research revealed there’s no proof the O’Leary’s – or their cow – had anything to do with the fire’s origin. In fact, there’s some speculation that a fiery meteorite broke apart as it fell to Earth, explaining how several fires over three states all started at once.

5. Most fires are started by:
a. Mice with matches.
b. Men, women, and children.
c. Zeus.
d. A small, square animal called the Woozy that shoots sparks from its eyes.

The answer: b. Zeus is a myth, people – and the mouse was acquitted. Bonus points if you can tell me where I got that Woozy thing from.
Cooking, electrical problems, smoking, and children playing with fire-starting materials are the main causes of fires. Kids with matches or lighters cause hundreds of deaths every year, and that ain’t funny.

6. If a fire sets off a sprinkler system:
a. All the sprinkler heads go off, allowing our hero to escape in the confusion.
b. All the sprinkler heads go off, allowing the villain to escape in the confusion.
c. All the sprinkler heads go off, allowing the hero to electrocute the villain.
d. Only the sprinkler heads directly above the fire go off, saving untold lives and property every year.

The answer: d. You might want to consider getting a guard dog, because sprinklers are designed to control fires while doing only minimal water damage.

7. Your smoke detector batteries should be changed:
a. So you have fresh ones available for the TV remote.
b. Every spring and fall, when the clocks change.
c. Because otherwise they could develop serious diaper rash.
d. Because their behavior is just unacceptable.

The answer: b, no matter what time zone you’re in. Could we Hoosiers give that time zone dustup a rest, already?

8. E.D.I.T.H. is important because:
a. She’s the only woman James T. Kirk ever really loved.
b. I said so.
c. Exit Drills In The Home help families escape from home fires.
d. How would Archie get along without her?

The answer: c (and b. Come to think of it, all of the above). Smoke and toxic gases from a fire can fill a home within minutes, so practicing how to safely escape from a fire, and meet up in a safe spot afterward, saves lives. Firefighters are great, if I do say so myself, but most fire victims are dead from smoke inhalation long before fire trucks can reach the scene.

9. Firefighters die:
a. Because that gray is unacceptable.
b. hard.
c. in the wool.
d. At the rate of about a hundred every year.

The answer – is pretty obvious, and not very funny. Not only is the easiest fire to fight the one that never starts, but the least dangerous fire is the one that never starts.

10: Fire is:
a. Fast, sometimes engulfing a home in five minutes.
b. Dark, producing dense smoke and toxic gases.
c. Hot, over 1,000 degrees in a typical structure fire and searing lungs even at a distance from the flames.
d. Deadly, killing 2,900 people in 2008, injuring 14,960 others, and causing over twelve billion dollars in damage.

The answer: All of the above, and that’s no joke. So the next time you see or hear something serious about fire prevention – pay attention. When the real test comes, it’s life or death.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 11th, 2012 12:30 pm (UTC)
I did not know that : d. Only the sprinkler heads directly above the fire go off, saving untold lives and property every year
Oct. 12th, 2012 04:50 am (UTC)
That's the problem we're having: Everybody sees the way they do it on TV and in the movies, and they don't want sprinklers because they think they'll soak the whole building down. I know of at least four buildings here in Albion that are still standing today only because of sprinklers.
Oct. 12th, 2012 12:16 pm (UTC)
I do not think I have ever heard of having sprinklers offered as an "option" in home construction
Oct. 13th, 2012 05:58 am (UTC)
It's something you usually have to ask for -- or even demand. The construction industry is fighting against home sprinkler systems: After all, once they've sold the house, the safety of its occupants are no longer their concern.
Oct. 13th, 2012 11:48 am (UTC)
Seems like the plumber would push it -- value added for him!
Oct. 14th, 2012 04:42 am (UTC)
You'd think so! But so far, firefighters are a single voice shouting in the wilderness.
Oct. 14th, 2012 12:18 pm (UTC)
Sing louder -- and get the plumbers and pipefitters union to join the chorus.
Oct. 15th, 2012 05:19 am (UTC)
Will keep trying!
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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