Did you know that since the days of the bucket brigade and the horse-drawn fire wagons a whole industry has developed to make sophisticated equipment to detect and fight fires? We’ve come a long way since the Chicago fire of 1878, considered the greatest disaster of the 19th century.
Here’s what happened. After a long dry spell, high winds fanned a small fire into a raging inferno that caught the city of Chicago completely by surprise.
The city had only 200 firefighters, 17 fire engines and 18 ladder trucks. With this equipment, they had to protect 651 miles of wooden sidewalks and 60,000 buildings, most of which were wood as well. It was a huge task.
The fire soon raged out of control, rampaging across a city of 350,000 terrified residents. The 34-hour calamity took the lives of 250 people, destroyed 18,000 buildings and left 90,000 people homeless.
Incredibly, that very same day, a massive forest fire roared out of control in eastern Wisconsin, wiping out the town of Peshtigo. Some 1,500 residents died and 4 million acres of prairie land were destroyed.
These and other tragic fires led to new products, new building codes and a new industry dedicated to detection and prevention.
Today we have sophisticated systems with heat sensors, smoke detectors, voice evacuation systems and other devices to protect hotels, office towers and other buildings. Specially designed fire suppression systems have halon gas to extinguish fires without damaging vulnerable computer centers, telephone switching equipment and other sensitive devices.
But this technology doesn’t mean we can let down our guard. We still need to rely on one of the best fire prevention systems ever-alert workers who look for and report fire hazards. Always remember to…
*Practice good housekeeping and store flammable materials a safe distance from heating equipment or electrical units.
*Inspect and maintain electrical equipment properly.
*Take care in handling flammable material.
*Eliminate careless smoking, oily rags, static electricity, grease, and other substances that can cause fires.
To prevent fires, you need to make sure your work area is clear of hazards. Any fire can easily lead to a tragedy and any activity that is a fire risk requires special precautions. Be aware of the dangers around you, report anything you think could lead to a fire and remember attention is prevention.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING ABOUT FIRE PREVENTION?
*Copyright 2006 Harkins Safety B219
Can you think of a reason why anybody would want to parachute right into the middle of a raging forest fire? Most of us couldn’t.
But for the brave men and women, who work as smokejumpers, skydiving into forest fires is their job-and what’s more, they can’t wait for their next call!
It’s true. Highly trained and experienced, smokejumpers parachute into forest fires as self-sufficient firefighters who can arrive on the scene to provide a quick initial attack on the fire in rugged terrain. Fire-fighting tools, food and water are also dropped by parachute, allowing the smokejumpers to fight fires on their own for up to 48 hours at a stretch.
The smokejumper program began in 1939 as an experiment in the Pacific Northwest and the first fire jump took place in Idaho’s Nez Perce National Forest in 1940. The first woman in the program completed her training in 1981.
Smokejumpers travel all over the country to fight fires and more than 270 smokejumpers work from Forest Service bases located in Idaho, California, Montana, Washington and Oregon.
As you can imagine, smokejumping is extremely hazardous. These highly trained professional must be in tip-top physical condition and must be experts in the specialized field of woodland firefighting.
While the demands on us aren’t as great as those for a smokejumper, we need to take fire every bit as seriously as they do. It’s vital that we always stay alert to possible fire-starters, such as solvents, electricity, mechanical equipment and even clutter in our work areas. And if a fire should occur, make sure you know the right action to take, including the location and proper use of fire extinguishers.
Despite their experience, smokejumpers never let up on their training. They constantly practice the basics, such as aircraft exiting procedures, parachute maneuvering, parachute- landing rolls, cargo retrieval and tree climbing. Some training sites even have virtual training simulators for real-life on the ground practice.
We shouldn’t let up on our training either. A hazard that’s overlooked due to inattention or a fire that rages out of control because someone didn’t take the time to learn the proper procedure can have devastating consequences-including the worst consequences of all, loss of life. Instead, when it comes to fire, we must always stay alert and stay informed to stay safe.
STOP FIRE BEFORE IT STARTS…PREVENTION IS THE KEY
*Copyright 2008 Harkins Safety B234
Don’t Get Burned
House fires injure or kill thousands each year. If a house fire happens to you, it’s critical to know what to do and to act fast. Here’s some potentially life-saving information.
In a serious house fire, you may have as little as five minutes to escape and survive. A manufacturer of home safety products has done extensive research on what happens when a home catches on fire. Some of the findings may surprise you.
For example, you can’t count on the smell of smoke to wake you if you are asleep. In fact, toxic fumes from a fire are more likely to put you into an even deeper sleep. The family dog has a much more sensitive smell than humans, but even that warning system might not work. The truth is, there’s no substitute for a system of well- maintained smoke detectors throughout the house.
Fire inside a house tends to be black, not bright red or orange as it would be outdoors where the fire can get plenty of oxygen. This means it will be difficult to see when you’re trying to escape. Depending on the fire’s source of fuel, a house can become an inferno in a matter of minutes.
More than 35,000 people are killed or injured in house fires each year. Your chances of surviving are double if you have a smoke detector on every floor. If the alarm sounds, get out fast and call the fire department from a neighbor’s house. Whatever you do, don’t go back in. Many are killed when they go back into the house to retrieve treasured objects.
At home and at work, the best plan is to stop fires before they start. On the job, stay aware, look for and report any hazards that might cause a fire. Good housekeeping is essential too. Be sure to dispose of oily rags, paper or scraps of wood. Trash, sawdust or almost any collection of waste can be a dangerous source of fuel for a fire. Also, carefully check to make sure that flammables are safely stored away from ant heat source. Don’t put off regular inspections of smoke detectors, heating units, wiring and fire extinguishers. Make sure you know where the fire extinguishers are kept and how to use them. If you do, you can stop a small fire from turning into a major disaster.
True, a good warning system is important to guard against fire, but the best protection is prevention and that means no fire at all.
DON’T GET BURNED! FIGHT FIRE WITH PREVENTION
*Copyright Harkins Safety 2008 B249