The history of National Fire Prevention Week has it roots in the great Chicago Fire that occurred on October 8, 1871, and killed some 300 people, left 100,000 homeless and destroyed more than 17,000 structures. The popular story is that a cow knocked over an oil lamp in the O’Leary barn. Although the fire is still undetermined, and it has been established that the O’Leary’s were asleep at the time the fire started, the massive fire swiftly took its toll, burning more than 2000 acres in 27 hours.
In Canada, the first national Fire Prevention Day proclamation was issued by the Governor-General in 1919.
From the beginning, it was apparent that a united effort between Canada and the U.S.A. would give the work greater impetus. To this end fire prevention organizations in both countries have always supported a common date at federal, state, provincial, and municipal levels. Fire Prevention Week falls each year in the week that includes October 9.
British Columbia, Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan and Yukon Territory fire departments coordinate efforts to reach children in kindergarten through grade three during Fire Prevention Week by developing the Fire Safety Starts with You! supplemental brochure. This helps fire and life safety educators deliver consistent, accurate fire safety messages with information on preventing fires, knowing what to do in case of a fire, smoke alarms and developing home escape plans. Each year the message is tailored to follow the NFPA theme with activity booklets, lesson plans for teachers and fire safety messages to take home.