UNION — The parade and celebration that make up Fire Prevention Day in Union County combines fun for the whole family with a serious message about the importance of fire safety.
Now held each year from Sunday to Saturday during the week Oct. 9 falls on, Fire Prevention Week commemorates the Great Chicago Fire which burned from Oct. 8-Oct. 10, 1871, killing up to 300 people, destroying 3.3 miles of Chicago, Illinois, and leaving more than 100,000 people homeless. Forty years later, in 1911, the Fire Marshals Association of North America observed the anniversary of the fire by sponsoring the first National Fire Prevention Day. The goal of the event was to keep the public informed about the importance of fire prevention.
In 1919, the National Fire Protection Association, at the invitation of Dominion Fire Prevention Association, held its 23rd annual meeting in Ottawa, Canada. During the meeting, both organizations approved resolutions urging the American and Canadian governments to support the campaign for a common Fire Prevention Day. This was expanded to Fire Prevention Week in 1922. The non-profit NFPA, which has officials sponsored Fire Prevention Week since its inception, selects the annual theme for Fire Prevention Week.
In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the first National Fire Prevention Week of October 4-10. In issuing the proclamation, Coolidge noted that in 1924 some 15,000 lives had been lost to fire in the United States. Calling the loss “startling,” Coolidge’s proclamation stated: “This waste results from conditions which justify a sense of shame and horror; for the greater part of it could and ought to be prevented… It is highly desirable that every effort be made to reform the conditions which have made possible so vast a destruction of the national wealth.”
In Union County, Fire Prevention Week is observed with visits to the county’s schools by local fire departments. Personnel from the fire departments visit the schools to talk to students about the importance of fire safety. The firefighters also bring with them one of their department’s fire trucks and other equipment to the presentations.
Firefighters, fire trucks, and other fire equipment are also part of the event which caps and concludes Fire Prevention Week in Union County: the Union County Firefighters Association’s annual Fire Prevention Day parade and celebration.
Fire Prevention Day is held on Saturday, the last day of Fire Prevention Week and begins with a parade of fire trucks from each local fire department as well as emergency vehicles from other first responder organizations such as the Union County EMS and the Union County Sheriff’s Office along Main Street in downtown Union. The vehicles in the parade then make their way to Walmart Super Center where the celebration portion of the day is held.
As in previous years, Saturday’s celebration included free tours of the fire trucks for children; free materials about fire safety and other items for children; a demonstration by firefighters and other emergency personnel of how they extract the victims of an automobile accident from the vehicle; free tours of the Union County Emergency Command Post; the Newberry Smoke House which simulates conditions of a structure fire; and the Annual Firefighter Corn Hole Tournament of Champions between each of the fire departments along with the Sheriff’s Office and EMS which this year was won by Lockhart Fire Department; and free hot dogs, potato chips, and drinks.
A new feature of the celebration was the presence of a drone which flew overhead during the extraction demonstration filming the scene.
One thing that was missing from this year’s event was Regional One from the Spartanburg Regional Health Care System. The helicopter and its crew normally take part in the extraction demonstration, landing at the scene and then airlifting one of the “victims” to medical treatment. Due to weather conditions, however, Regional One was not able to take part in this year’s Fire Prevention Day.
Despite the absence of Regional One, Lee Brannon, President of the Union County Firefighters Association, said that this year’s Fire Prevention Day was nevertheless a success.
“It went very well,” Brannon said Tuesday. “We probably had 300 people here.”
Brannon thanked all those who took part in the event.
“I want to thank everyone who came out and supported Fire Prevention Day,” Brannon said. “I hope they got something out of it.”
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.