Spangdahlem to host Fire Prevention Week activities

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- More than 200 people died in a massive fire about 130 years ago that also left many devastated and homeless. The massive blaze that left a once-booming city in ruins is now commonly known as the Great Chicago Fire. The fire burnt from Oct. 8-10, 1871, destroying homes, offices, public buildings and land. 

Forty-nine years later, then President Woodrow Wilson issued the first national Fire Prevention Day proclamation, and in 1925 former President Calvin Coolidge went one step farther in proclaiming a National Fire Prevention Week to bring light to an often preventable and destructive disaster. 

In recognition of the national prevention campaign scheduled for Oct. 4-10, Spangdahlem firefighters will host a series of events to educate Sabers and their families on what they can do to prevent fires. The 2009 theme is "Stay Fire Smart! Don't Get Burned!" 

The theme focuses on keeping homes fire safe and preventing burns, according to National Fire Protection Association press release. 

"This year we're doing something different by having a proclamation signing to kick off events. Then, commanders, chiefs and first sergeants will have the opportunity to check out the rescue search trainer," said Staff Sgt. Gary Day, 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron fire instructor. 

The rescue search trainer is a smoked out building where trainees must perform a search pattern to find victims in a simulated fire. 

Throughout the week, 52nd CE firefighters and Sparky, the NFPA official mascot, will visit Spangdahlem and Bitburg schools and child development centers to share tips on fire prevention. 

"At the middle school (Oct. 8), we'll give a live oven demonstration, since that's the number-one cause of fire in the home," Sergeant Day said. There is more of a focus on children at the middle-school age because that's when they might start experimenting with cooking, "and they start learning not to put certain things in the microwave, not leaving things unattended and, if left unattended and a fire starts, preventing it from escalating." 

Also children of all ages should at the very least know their address and emergency phone numbers, especially since the phone numbers are different overseas, he added. 

Home fires and burns claim the lives of approximately 3,000 people per year, and more than 200,000 people are seen in emergency rooms for burns, according to the NFPA press release, which is even more reason to promote fire prevention. 

"The reason we have Fire Prevention Week is because it's everyone's responsibility to be safe. People may take things for granted and one event like a fire could become a catastrophic loss," Sergeant Day noted. "We start with the children at a young age, telling them about fire prevention. Then we move to the parents with additional information." 

"Until it happens to you, you just don't know what it's like," he added. But just this year, there have already been incidents in base housing to include an unattended cooking fire, a fire started when a person fell asleep after starting incense burning on the stove and a fire due to a burner on a barbecue grill being left on. 

Spangdahlem's 2009 Fire Prevention Week proclamation states that while cooking is the leading cause of home fire injuries and heating equipment and smoking are the leading cause of home fire deaths, Spangdahlem first responders are dedicated to reducing the occurrence of home fires and injuries through prevention and protection education. 

Some tips for keeping your home safe from fire and your children safe from burns include the following: 
· Keep hot foods and liquids away from tables and counter edges. 
· Have a three-foot "child-free" zone around the stove. 
· Never hold a child in your arms while preparing hot food or drinking a hot beverage. 
· Be careful when using hot items such as curling irons, ovens, irons, lamps, heaters. 
· Install tamper-resistant receptacles to prevent a child from sticking an object in an outlet. 
· Never leave a child alone in a room with a lit candle, portable heater, lit fireplace, stove, or other hot appliance. 
· Wear short or close-fitting sleeves when cooking. 
· Set your hot water temperature no higher than 120 degrees. 
· Install anti-scald valves on shower heads and faucets. 

Other events for the week include fire prevention information on the American Forces Network morning show Oct. 7 and a Fire Prevention Week parade Oct. 10. The parade will feature 15 to 20 vehicles to include a ladder truck, rescue vehicle, explosive ordinance disposal truck, and local German fire trucks. The parade, led by Sparky, will start at 11 a.m. at the Eifel Lanes Bowling Center, go through the base housing and end at Spangdahlem Elementary School. 

After the parade, there will be raffles, announcement of poster contest winners, a bouncy castle and a free barbecue lunch.