This week is Fire Prevention Week and experts say it is a good time to install and check for working smoke detectors.

Fire Prevention Week commemorates the Great Chicago Fire, which took place Oct. 8, 1871. In 1925, United States President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed Fire Prevention Week a national observance, making it the longest-running public health observance in the U.S.

The 2018 fire prevention campaign centers around the mantra “Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware.”

Local events include demonstrations of new equipment at San Luis Obispo’s downtown farmer’s market on Thursday, Oct. 11 and a tour of Fire Station 1, located at 2160 Santa Barbara Ave. on Saturday, Oct. 13 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

During Week of Welcome 2018, two brush fires, known collectively as The Reservoir Fire, set a combined 51 acres ablaze north of Cal Poly. Last September, a 97-acre fire broke out on the hillside behind Fremont Hall and Sierra Madre residence halls.

Below are some tips from Cal Fire Spokesperson Chris Elms on how to prevent fires from starting and how to stay safe if they do.


“It all has to do with learning what can catch fire,” Elms said. “There can be a thousand different sources.”

Looking for places where fires can start is essential in fire prevention. This means identifying instances, such as when papers are set near ignition sources, that could easily start or fuel a fire.


Functional smoke detectors in both sleeping and multi-use rooms help prevent injuries and deaths. Hallways, bedrooms and kitchens are all viable locations for smoke alarms.

Elms said that simply relying on your nose to detect smoke is not enough.

“The statistic remains that 50 percent of all fire-related deaths are due to no smoke alarms,” Elms said. “You might smell smoke, but it might be too late.”

The National Fire Protection Association states that people have two minutes to get out of a house before smoke or fire overwhelms them. Elms said the amount of time decreases when the space is a resident hall room or a smaller apartment.


Knowing what can be an ignition source can help prevent fires. Elms said that six-way outlets are a common problem in college-related fires.

These outlets are made for short-term use — great for a coffee shop or a study session, but not for months of use at a time, Elms said. 

Elms also recommended buying outlets with an Underwriters Laboratories sticker, which means they have been lab tested and certified to have limited failures.

Around the holidays, candles are popular. Elms suggested looking for flameless candles. When using traditional candles, place them carefully around rooms, Elms added.

Be aware

Having situational awareness and being prepared are the most important elements of evacuating.

“Have a plan,” Elms said. “Always have two ways out of every room.”

The first way should be the common exit, but Elms said to have an alternative option in case that exit is blocked. Windows and other avenues of escape should remain free of clutter.

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