Fire Prevention Week
was established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire, the tragic 1871 conflagration that killed more than 250 people,
left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres. The fire began on October 8,
but continued into and did most of its damage on October 9, 1871.
Those who survived the Chicago and Peshtigo fires never forgot what they'd been
through; both blazes produced countless tales of bravery and heroism. But the fires also changed the way that firefighters
and public officials thought about fire safety. On the 40th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire, the Fire Marshals
Association of North America (today known as the International Fire Marshals Association), decided that the anniversary
of the Great Chicago Fire should henceforth be observed not with festivities, but in a way that would keep the public
informed about the importance of fire prevention. The commemoration grew incrementally official over the years.
In 1920, President Woodrow Wilson issued the first National Fire Prevention Day proclamation, and since 1922, Fire
Prevention Week has been observed on the Sunday through Saturday period in which October 9 falls. According to the
National Archives and Records Administration's Library Information Center, Fire Prevention Week is the longest running
public health and safety observance on record. The President of the United States has signed a proclamation proclaiming
a national observance during that week every year since 1925.