The fire burned approximately 27 hours and covered a swath of land
amounting to more than 2,000 acres before it was finally
History reports the city of Chicago was virtually destroyed, but
it was also very quickly rebuilt. Even so, the fire had a long-term
effect on the city, and the memory of the devastation will never
Forty years after the fact, the Fire Marshals Association of
North America decided they would mark the anniversary of the fire,
Oct. 9, as a day of informing the public about fire safety and
In 1920 President Woodrow Wilson turned the day into a national
observance, and in 1925 President Calvin Coolidge promoted it to a
weeklong event to take place Oct. 4-10.
Since that time, fire departments across the country have taken
the week seriously as an opportunity to inform and educate the
public on fire safety, focusing primarily on school-age children.
This year, the Lincoln Fire Department is observing a fire safety
and prevention month. All during October firefighters will be
visiting local schools and talking to children about fire safety.
According to Bret Tripplett, fire inspector, who is heading up
the activities at the city fire department this year, firefighters
will visit one school per day on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays
through Oct. 20.
The month of activities actually began shortly after school
started this fall. The fire department sent out letters to city
schools, inviting children to enter a poster contest. The theme of
their posters was to revolve around fire safety and prevention tips,
such as touching a door to see if it is hot before opening it during
a fire, and staying low to the ground because smoke rises and the
best air to breathe is down low.
According to Tripplett, the children had most of the month of
September to draw their pictures, and as a result, the fire
department received approximately 225 entries. Schools that
participated were Carroll Catholic, Central, Chester-East Lincoln,
Jefferson, Washington-Monroe, West Lincoln-Broadwell and Zion
Tripplett said the second-graders were the age level that
submitted the most pictures, but the team of judges chose one winner
from each grade level. He also noted there was some excellent
artwork and it was a tough decision, but in the end the following
youngsters were the winners:
the winner was Ella Singleton. Ella is 5 years old and a
student at Carroll Catholic. Her parents are Scott and Jennifer
Singleton. The theme for Ella's poster is "Feel the door."
winner was 6-year-old Rachel Morrow, also a student at
Carroll Catholic. Her parents are Greg and Peggy Morrow. The
theme of Rachel's poster is "Stop drop and roll," but she also
added a personal "thank-you" to the firefighters.
also chose the theme of "Stop drop and roll" for the winning
entry on the second-grade level. Nikos, whose parents are John
and Tonya Poulos, is 7 years old and a student at West
The final winner for this year was
Azlen Smith. Azlen's parents are Cody and Christy Smith.
Azlen is 8 years old and a third-grade student at Zion Lutheran
School. The theme of her poster was also "Stop drop and roll."
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As the winners of this year's contest, the kids will each be
treated to a ride to school in a real fire truck. Chief Mark Miller
said as long as it is available, the children will be picked up at
home, one per week on the day of their choice, in the city's big
ladder truck and driven to school.
In addition, the winners will have their posters prominently
featured in Lincoln Daily News, one each Friday over the next four
weeks, beginning with Ella Singleton.
Miller added he is hopeful the downtown businesses will allow the
fire department to post all 200-plus submissions in their store
windows during the month of March.
In addition to the contest, firefighters will also be visiting
local schools this month and teaching kids about fire prevention and
safety. This week they have been at West Lincoln-Broadwell,
Jefferson and Central.
Next week they will be at Adams on Tuesday, Zion Lutheran on
Wednesday and Chester-East Lincoln on Thursday.
On Oct. 18, 19 and 20, firefighters will visit Carroll Catholic,
Northwest and Washington-Monroe respectively.
Tripplett said that during the day at each school, the department
will take its "smoke house" so children can safely experience what
it is like to be inside a smoky building during a fire.
The firefighters will also give lessons in how to escape a
burning building. Triplett said the lessons are easy to understand
The kids will learn about knowing two escape routes out of their
home and that getting on the floor and crawling through smoke makes
it easier for them to breathe. They will learn the "stop, drop and
roll" method of extinguishing burning clothing, and they will learn
that no matter what, they should never go back into a burning
In addition, the firefighters will discuss how to call 911 and
when. They will talk about establishing a meeting place outside
where family members can find each other during a fire. The kids
will learn about smoke alarms, how to test batteries and when they
should be changed.
Triplett said the firefighters will also discuss how to be safe
around campfires and other recreational fires.
Miller said all the firefighters work hard to bring themselves
down to the children's age level as they speak to them and interact
In addition to valuable lessons learned, the weeks ahead at the
various schools will help children better relate to and develop a
trust in the department whose sole responsibility is to help them
during a fire.
[By NILA SMITH]