CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — The Champaign and Savoy Fire Departments are making the 100th Fire Prevention Week with a series of activities and exhibits throughout next week. This year’s theme is “Fire won’t wait. Plan your escape.”
The Champaign Fire Department will hosting an exhibit at Market Place Mall on Sunday, Oct. 9, and Friday, Oct. 14, from noon to 5 p.m. both days. The Savoy Fire Department is hosting an open house on Monday, Oct. 10, from 6-9 p.m.
Fire Prevention Week is always held the second week of October in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire. From Oct. 8 to 10, 1971, the fire burned much of Chicago to the ground, destroying 17,000 buildings, killing around 300 people and costing nearly $200 million
“It quickly got out of hand, and people were running for their lives, running into the lake and Chicago river,” said Eddie Bain of the Savoy Fire Department. “Officials across the country realized fire departments could not always manage the incident, so began teaching people how not to have things go on fire, and a lot of building code adjustments.”
Champaign will have educational opportunities for families and children inside the mall on both days. They will offer a chance to check out the Fire Department’s new safety trailer on Friday and will have a “touch-a-truck” exhibit for children on Sunday. Both events will occur in the parking lot outside the food court.
During the open house at Savoy, Bain said they would have a safe home with theatrical smoke and a fog machine and teach kids how to crawl to safety. Mondays are their regular training nights, so they will also have lots of firefighters present for the kids and adults.
The focus is on getting out safely and quickly, no matter where you live.
“You need to have a plan in case a fire does occur,” Bain said. “Real fires don’t look like you see in the movies; real fires are dark, hot, and smoky.”
He added that most people who die in fires die from the smoke.
“Most people that die in fires die in residential settings, whether it be a home or apartment,” Bain said. “The smoke is so treacherous and extremely poisonous, and when faced with it in the middle of the night, it is dark and not the time to find the children to get out of the house.”
Unfortunately, Bain said, sometimes people cannot get the children out. He stressed the importance of having a plan and sticking to it, something he practiced with his own family. He practiced with his children, involving them in climbing out of windows or rushing out the door to a neighbor. Before cell phones, this was the only way to call emergency services.
His advice is the same for this day and age: have a plan, get out, call for safety, and practice.
Bain said the whole point of Savoy’s fire prevention safety training is to teach kids and their parents how to escape safely. They also want to show how fast smoke can take over a building.
“We are trying to raise a generation that knows more about fire safety and incorporate what they know,” Bain said.
Bain said things are often blamed for fires.
“We blame electricity, smoking, and other things. There is some truth, but it really comes down to behavior,” Bain said. “Misuse of electricity or inappropriately discarding an ashtray can cause uncontrollable fires. We were taught there are really only three main causes of fire: men, women, and children. Basically, people are the cause.”
He added that a lightning strike and other mother nature grievances could start fires, but most start by complete accident. Children are inquisitive by nature and may start a fire accidentally.
“Fire is fascinating, and a curious kid gets a hold of some matches to build a fire, and they usually hide when they do that under the bed, garage hazards out there,” Bain said.
He said when teaching any age, he focuses on three categories: information, explanation and determination.
“Determination is the key that convinces you to go home and check, get a fire alarm, and get a plan,” Bain said. “If I can convince you to change your behavior, that is the key to fire prevention behavior.”
Bain added that the ladders in fire trucks could be misleading; ladders are only limited to where the truck can park.