Fire Prevention Week was established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire, which killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 people homeless, and destroyed more than 17,000 structures in 1871.
This Saturday, October 10, all Fairfax County Fire Stations will host Open Houses, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., and invite all residents to come out, meet your local firefighters and rescue personnel, examine their safety equipment, and meet your neighbors. The theme for Fire Prevention Week this year is “Stay Fire Smart! Don’t Get Burned!”
There are six fire stations in Mason District, and several others nearby. You may visit Annandale Station 8 on Columbia Pike in Annandale; Bailey’s Crossroads Station 10, also on Columbia Pike near Blair Road in Falls Church; Jefferson Station 18 on Hodge Place near Loehmann’s Plaza; West Annandale 23 on Little River Tunrpike outside the Beltway; Edsall Station 26 on Caroline Place near I-395; or Fort Buffalo Station 28 on Sleepy Hollow Road near Seven Corners. Each station will have activities and displays that emphasize fire safety, including some hands-on opportunities for children. Please remember that the fire personnel are on duty when you visit, and may have to exit quickly to respond to an emergency call.
Fire prevention is a major focus of fire departments across the country. In 2008, 3,320 people were killed by fires in the United States. That means one death every 2 ½ hours, and a fire injury occurs every half hour. Preventing fires and fire injuries in the first place is the goal of our Fire and Rescue Department. These brave public employees want you to be safe. Whether it is using your fireplace safely, installing the propane tank on your outdoor grill correctly, or teaching proper and safe use of candles and matches, these public open houses provide a wealth of usable information. I recall watching children navigate the “smoke house” at the Annandale Volunteer Fire Department. It looked easy from the outside, very scary from the inside. One year, the Fort Buffalo station had a stove set up and showed how easy it is for a kitchen towel to catch fire when left carelessly across a burner. It was a quick lesson in safety that stays with you.
Fire safety was on my mind, but not very visible, when I visited China last month. The hotels in Beijing and Changsha had fire exit information posted in each room and elevator, but I did not see any fire stations or equipment while there. I was puzzled when I saw a street vendor preparing “stinky tofu” in hot oil on a propane-heated wok. The vendor was working in the middle of the sidewalk, with hot oil popping as people passed by. I wondered where his fire extinguisher was, and if it was rated for oil and propane fires. I doubt a similar situation would qualify for a permit here.