October 09, 2004
It wasn't until 1925 that aggressive fire education and prevention program began. In that year, President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the first National Fire Prevention Week, October 4-10, 1925.
President Coolidge noted that in the previous year some 15,000 lives were lost due to fire in the United States. He stated in his proclamation, "...these losses are startling" and "This waste results from the conditions which justify a sense of shame and horror and 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."
Progress was made but as late as the mid-1970's fire related deaths in the United States still approached 12,000 people a year. The "fire-prevention" message continues today and the number of fire related deaths has dropped to less that 5,000. These number are still not acceptable if one of those fatalities is one of our citizens or family members.
As recently as September 5, 2004, we still see the sad effects of fire right here in Ketchikan when a fire completely destroyed a home that had been a Ketchikan landmark for more than 100 years. Luckily no one was injured in this fire above the tunnel on Front Street , but the effects of the fire - both financially and emotionally - will be felt for years to come.
"Injured or killed?" According to the Ketchikan Fire Department, the North Tongass Fire Department and the South Tongass Fire Department, the State of Alaska leads the nation in fire deaths per capita. They say that's a statistic we should not be proud of and not tolerate. With the national average at about 1.5 deaths per 100,000 populations, Alaska leads with a rate nearly 3 times that number. Not too "acceptable" numbers according to our local fire departments. Quoting a news release from the local fire departments, "There are no acceptable numbers when it comes to losing all your possessions or the life of a friend of family member."
The Ketchikan Fire Department, in cooperation with the North Tongass Fire Department and the South Tongass Volunteer Fire Department say they want to do something about the serious fire problem in Alaska. They will be visiting schools, conducting tours of the fire department facilities, and spreading the "Fire Prevention" message throughout the month of October and beyond.
With the help of their fire prevention partners, McDonald's of Ketchikan and KPU Telecommunications, the fire departments' "Free Smoke Detector" program enters its 3rd year with more than 200 smoke alarms having been given to City and Borough residents since its inception two years ago.
Ketchikan's three local fire departments will also be participating in a program sponsored by the Alaska State Fire Marshal's Office that provides free home inspections to qualifying residents of the island. The Alaska Division of Fire Prevention received a grant from the Federal government to do "free home fire inspections" and distribute smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers,and other fire safety equipment.
Members of all the area fire departments are available to visit homes by invitation throughout the island to do courtesy fire prevention walk-throughs. Members will also provide fire safety education and distribute literature that can help residents prevent a fire or be prepared, should a fire occur in their home.
Single-family homes with children under the age of 14 and/or adults over the age of 65 residing in them or native Alaskans can qualify for the program.
For more information regarding this program or for any information regarding fire safety presentation at your schools or place of business, or home fire-safety information, you can contact any of you local fire department or contact Assistant Chief Jim Hill of the Ketchikan Fire Department at 225-5940.
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