National Fire Prevention Week begins Sunday

Sunday, October 8, 2006

By Colette Lefebvre-Davis


Most school children in Nevada's past and present can recall when Fire Pup came to their classrooms and explained the hazards of fire.

Fire Prevention Week marks the anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire of Oct. 8-9, 1871. The historic blaze raged for several days and killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, and destroyed more than 17,000 buildings. Each October, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) sponsors the fire prevention campaign.

The theme for the week in 2006 focuses on the leading cause of home fires -- cooking.

Fire Prevention Week begins with National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend.

Captain Bill Thornton of Local 3031, Nevada, has been to the national memorial in Emmitsburg, Md., the home of a eternal flame that burns for all of those who have lost their lives during duty.

Thornton said, "There are marble blocks that list the names of firefighter killed and then there are in memorial areas that list those who were firefighters."

This is the 25th year of the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial.

Plaques with the names of the 100 men and women killed in the line of duty in 2005 will be added to the list. Missouri has had three firefighters whose names will be added to the memorial. The most recent and nearest to the Vernon County area, was Firefighter Timmy Shane Hardy of the Neosho Fire Department. Hardy died on Nov. 7, 2005, while battling a fire at the Ragland Mills complex in Neosho. Hardy was killed when he became entrapped in a conveyor belt he was riding to the top of the grain elevator. Hardy began his firefighting career as a volunteer in 1994.

Since 1982, the nation has honored its fallen firefighters during this weekend. Families of fallen firefighters will participate in family day activities on Saturday. There is also an evening candlelight service at the shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, the patron Saint of firefighters.

Thornton began his firefighting career as a volunteer. His early career in the small farming community of Overbrook, Kan., located 25 miles southeast of Topeka, Kan., taught him a lot about, firefighting. He, believes that it's a desire to "give back to the community, to help people, because it's certainly not the pay." He was a boy scout, grew up participating in his churches activities and then the next logical step was, for Thornton, firefighting. His father was a firefighter in Overbrook and Thornton believes that for a lot of people its a family thing.

"It's awesome (being a firefighter). It's the coolest. My wife has gotten better with it." said Thornton.

As a captain, Thornton responds to the scene and directs the firefighters. "We have a well trained department." said Thornton.

Also, according to Thornton, "The most fires in Nevada are caused by a misuse of electrical appliances. Some people will take a wrapped up extension cord and cover it with a blanket so that nobody trips over it. But what they don't realize is there isn't anywhere for the heat to go."

Since 1885, the Nevada Fire Department has lost one firefighter in the line of duty and two of whom it's unknown whether the death was in the line of duty or not. Firefighter Bernice Lynch died on Christmas Day, 1921, Jim Jones died in 1936 and Pete Davis died in 1941.

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