October 8th, 2017 began Fire Prevention Week here in Illinois. Increasing awareness surrounding how to prevent fires and how to survive a fire happens in October because of the tragedy of the Great Chicago Fire that began on October 8, 1871.
Legend has it that a fire broke out after a cow – belonging to Mrs. Catherine O’Leary – kicked over a lamp, igniting the barn and then the whole city of Chicago. Causing more than 250 deaths, leaving over 100,000 people homeless and destroying more than 2,000 acres of property, the effects of the Great Chicago Fire still resonate.
The story of Mrs. O’Leary’s cow has since been proven a myth with speculation of how the fire started, ranging from cigarette smoking, to fiery meteorite, to “suspicious” causes. No matter what the true reason the effects of that fire were devastating and why prevention and awareness are essential in order to save both property and lives.
Top Causes of Apartment Fires
The main causes of apartment fires includes cooking/kitchen fires, electrical appliances (i.e. space heaters), smoking (major cause of fatal fires), candle use and arson (which includes children playing with matches/fire).
Steps to Prevent Apartment Fires
There are several steps that you can take to help prevent a fire from starting in your apartment:
- Oak Park Apartments properties have been smoke free for about four years. So no smoking, ever. Not even on the back porch. Smoking has to take place outside of the property – generally 15 feet away (similar to other non-smoking public ordinances) is acceptable.
- Keep matches and lighters where children can’t get to them.
- Never leave cooking food unattended. Remember to switch off the burner when you are done.
- Keep all things flammable away from the stove top when cooking.
- Choose to use battery operated candles. If you choose to use real candles make sure to blow out your candles when you are done. If you need a reminder set a timer.
- Keep heating equipment at least three feet away from combustible materials.
- Replace worn electrical cords, make sure to always use power strips if additional outlets are needed.
- Do not store flammable liquids or compressed gases (i.e. propane) in your apartment or on your balcony.
- Do not use your balcony for storage or for grilling food.
- Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors bi-annually. A good time to do this is at when the time changes in the fall and spring.
What to Do in Case of an Apartment Fire
If there is a fire in your apartment, make sure that you have a plan and that your plan works. Know your fire escape route and know where all the extinguishers are in your building. Never ignore a fire alarm.
Always follow these steps to escape safely:
- Check doors before opening them. If the door is cool, open it slowly and stay low to the ground and leave the building as quickly as possible. If the door is warm, seal the door and the vents with wet bedding or towels. Go to a window, and if there is no smoke outside, open it and signal for help.
- If you are able, call 9-1-1 and let them know that you are trapped in the building and give them your location.
- Never use an elevator during a fire! Use the stairs!
- Once you are safely out of the building, NEVER go back in. If you need help, call 9-1-1 or ask a member of the fire department that has responded to your apartment fire.