Doña Ana County



Legend has it that Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked over a lantern on Oct. 9, 1871 and ignited the Great Chicago Fire, which claimed 250 lives, destroyed 17,430 buildings and caused $169 million in property damage.

Doña Ana County’s interim fire marshal, Jerry Adams, said that the week including Oct. 9 is now designated nationwide as Fire Prevention Week, in memory of all the lives lost in Chicago and in hopes that losses attributed to fire can be abated in the future.

The theme for 1998's Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 4-10), Adams said, is: “Fire Drills: The Great Escape.” Doña Ana County volunteer firefighters will give presentations and demonstrate equipment at 10 elementary schools during Fire Prevention Week.
Sponsored by the Public Education Division of the National Fire Protection Association, Fire Prevention Week aims each year to thematically capture an element of fire safety through which to educate the general public.
Adams said one of the dangerous misconceptions about fire is that escape is easy. People who subscribe to this misguided philosophy, he said, place themselves and their loved ones in danger from fast-moving fires that can render a residence or office impassable within seconds or minutes. Besides the fire itself, smoke also is deadly, he said, and can billow quickly through a structure, choking off both visibility and the air supply. He added that most fire-related fatalities are attributed to smoke inhalation.
The school demonstrations will show that having a plan for fire escape, Adams said, can save lives and minimize confusion in the event of a fire. The installation, testing and maintenance of smoke and fire detectors, he said, is crucial to giving an early warning of the threat of fire.
“Education is the key. Everyone needs to know what to do when those alarms go off, then how to get out,” Adams said. “After that, each person needs to feel secure that everyone else knows how to get out, too. Our theme this year focuses on developing fire-escape plans and then practicing those plans through regular drills in the home and workplace.”
Once a fire is detected, Adams said, the key to survival is getting out and staying out of the burning structure. Many people who die in fires, he said, are the ones who go back into a burning structure to rescue relatives, friends, pets or belongings.
A good fire-escape plan and a regular series of drills, he said, can minimize loss of life when a fire occurs. Everyone should agree ahead of time to meet at a designated site where attendance can be assessed. If someone is missing, Adams said, let a firefighter go in after them. People who go into a burning structure without the proper clothing and equipment, he said, are more likely to be injured or killed than they are to find a missing person.
Presentations and equipment demonstrations by county fire inspector Joe Cobley and various volunteer firefighters already have been scheduled at the following places and times, Adams said:
* Oct. 5: 8:30 a.m., Chaparral Elementary School; 1 p.m., Anthony Elementary School
* Oct. 6: 9:15 a.m., La Union Elementary School; 12:40 p.m., Mesquite Elementary School
* Oct. 7: 9 a.m., San Miguel Elementary School; 12:30 p.m., La Mesa Elementary School
* Oct. 8: 9:30 a.m., Garfield Elementary School; 1 p.m., Doña Ana Elementary School
* Oct. 9: 9 a.m., Fairacres Elementary School; 1 p.m., East Picacho Elementary School
For more information about National Fire Prevention Week or activities in Doña Ana County, call Adams at the county fire marshal’s office at (505) 647-7709.