Since 1922, Fire Prevention Week has been observed to honor the victims of the Great Peshtigo and Chicago Fires. While Maine’s fire history is only a shadow of those great historic fires, fire departments across the state work to keep the public informed about the importance of fire safety.

Sixty-five years ago this week, a few woods fires were reported to the Maine Fire Service. Within days, more than 20 large fires were burning across Maine. The fires consumed 175,000 acres of timberland, destroyed more than a thousand homes, killed 16 citizens, and injured 10,000 more. Finally, cooler fall temperatures assisted with bringing the fires under control.

Fires happen daily and whether they consume acres of forestland, a major business or a single-family home, the greatest tragedy is when they take a life. Residential home fires are the leading cause of fire-related death and injury in the United States.

Annually, U.S. fire departments respond to nearly 365,000 residential fires. Those fires cause more than $7 billion in losses and, sadly, kill more than 2,600 people. Annual residential fire deaths rival the number that would die if seven jumbo jets crashed every year in the United States, killing all on board.

I am hoping that people will take some time to consider the consequences of fires in their homes. People can visit the National Fire Protection Association’s Fire Prevention Week home page. Families can review ways they can prevent, plan and survive fires in their homes.

Vicki Schmidt, Hebron


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