October 9th marks the ninety-eighth celebration of Fire Prevention Day. This day was picked since it is the anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. In less than three days approximately 300 people were killed, 100,000 were without homes, and the city suffered $200 million worth of damages. This fire started people to think about fire prevention instead of only firefighting.

One of the requirements for home schooling where we live in Pennsylvania is that annually we cover the importance of fire safety. Our family had an up close experience with this a number of years ago. I had ribs simmering on the stove that spring morning. As my sons and I headed to meet my husband for lunch, I thought for sure that I had turned the stove off before leaving our home.

After eating I felt prompted by the Lord to return home, even though I had errands to run in a neighboring town. When I turned down our street I immediately began to smell smoke. As I pulled up to our house, I saw smoke pouring out of the rafters. My first thoughts were to get our pets safely out and if possible to turn off the stove burner. I sent our boys next door to the neighbor to have them call 911 while I attempted to rescue the animals. When I opened the front door, smoke poured out. After one step inside I realized that the smoke was too thick to see through.

My next thought was to go through the basement where I could come upstairs and have a straight shot to the kitchen. I did manage to get the burner turned off before the firefighters arrived. I called for the dog, but was unable to locate her. I chose to go outside because of the thickness of the smoke was getting to me. I realized later that it was not very wise of me to go into a smoke-filled house. I had forgotten some of the important lessons that I diligently taught my sons each school year.

Within minutes the fire trucks arrived and were able to safely get our dog and guinea pig out of our smoke filled home. The ribs that I had been cooking before I left had completely boiled away while I was gone. We learned later that due to the grease content from the meat, and the heat from the burner, it was within seconds of explosively igniting. The clean up from this experience took many months.

Fire safety became a bit more important in our education program. I was able to point out to my boys the things that we did right during the experience, as well as the things that we did wrong. This fall is a great time to teach your children the importance of knowing what to do in case of a fire. Make sure to remind them that if they are witness to a fire that they know how to contact help as well as to stay out of the way of the firefighters, so they can do their job.


Oxygen, fuel, extinguish, smoke detector, smoke, fire, firemen, bucket brigade, fire hydrant, escape plan, blaze and rescue.


     •   Design a fire safety poster.

     •   Draw a floor plan and escape route for your home.

     •   Research the different type of fire trucks (historically and today) and draw a poster and label each one.

     •   Bucket brigades were often used to fight fires in the early days. Find out more about this and then draw a picture of it.

     •   Draw a cartoon strip that demonstrates a fire safety rule or tip. 


     •   Research the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Pretend you are a reporter and write about how the fire started. Why did things burn so quickly? Could it have been prevented? What would you have done if you were there?