Fort McCoy News October 24, 2014

Firefighters promote awareness for fire prevention

BY SCOTT T. STURKOL
Public Affairs Staff

The Fort McCoy Fire Department has been busy getting the word out about fire prevention.

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Firefighter Matt Steele reads a book to children at the Fort McCoy Child Development Center Oct. 6 as part of activities for National Fire Prevention Week. Photo by Scott T. Sturkol

In observance of October as National Fire Prevention Month and National Fire Prevention Week, Fort McCoy firefighters participated in a kick-off event in the South Post Family Housing Area, an equipment display and information booth at the Exchange, visits with children from the Child Development Center, fire extinguisher training, fire evacuation drills and more.

The national fire prevention observances have roots in the Great Chicago Fire of Oct. 8, 1871. The fire reportedly killed 300 people, left 100,000 homeless and destroyed more than 17,000 structures. Soon after, a movement began in the U.S. to recognize the importance of fire prevention. President Calvin Coolidge observed the first prevention week event in October 1925.

Fire Inspector Curt Ladwig, who coordinated Fort McCoy's activities, said the observance goes beyond learning about fire prevention. "It's not just fire prevention — the focus (of the observance) is on fire departments as a whole," he said.

Ladwig noted his fellow firefighters look forward to being involved.

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A firefighter shows what it's like to don all of his gear Oct. 8 during a presentation for a tour group visiting the Fort McCoy Fire Department. Photo by Curt Ladwig

"It's a joint effort to support these activities," Ladwig said. "They get involved and they like to help."

The national theme for both the week and month was, "Working Smoke Alarms Save Lives — Test Yours Every Month!" Ladwig said fire prevention education is all about being prepared.

"Fire can strike anytime, day or night," Ladwig said. "It's not like a storm where you get advanced warning. Fire will happen 24 hours a day, seven days a week, without warning, so people need to be prepared."

Ladwig gave some tips on what people can do to prepare.

"The most important thing is to make sure your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are working — test them monthly," Ladwig said. "Change the batteries on detectors regularly.

"Also, have a fire-evacuation plan and practice it regularly," Ladwig said. "Being prepared is the key to surviving."

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Trucks from the Fort McCoy fire department are set up for static display for the installation community Oct. 7 at the Exchange parking lot. Photo by Scott T. Sturkol

Off-post, the fire department's fire safety trailer supported events in Onalaska, Black River Falls, Campbell, West Salem, Elroy, Necedah, Mauston, Warrens and Wyeville, Wis.

Ladwig said it's important to help educate as many people as possible about fire prevention. "We have the resources to reach out to these outer communities, and it's the right thing to do," he said.

Fire prevention awareness must be observed year-round, Ladwig said. "The more steps we take to stay aware about preventing fires and practicing fire safety the more we can save lives and prevent injuries."

The Fort McCoy Fire Department offers fire-extinguisher training for military and government civilian employees and their Families.

Educational materials and staff are available to support fire prevention activities throughout the year.

In case of a fire emergency, dial 9-1-1. For more information about fire prevention, call the fire department at 608-388-4077, or visit the National Fire Protection Association website at http://www.nfpa.org.