NFPA has been sponsoring Fire Prevention Week since 1922, when it began. Fire Prevention Week is the longest running public health observance.
The first National Fire Prevention Week was October 4-10, 1925, proclaimed by President Calvin Coolidge. This proclamation began a tradition of the president of the United States signing this proclamation each year to recognize the occasion.
It is recognized each year in memory of the Great Chicago Fire, which began October 8, 1871. This fire killed 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, and destroyed 17,400 structures.
Let's take a look at the cow that started it all.
Fire investigators determined that the fire did start near Mrs. Catherine O'Leary's barn at 137 Dekoven Street on the southwest side of Chicago. However, Chicago historian Robert Crombie has helped debunk the rumor that the cow started it.
The legend of Mrs. O'Leary's cow started for a reason. The Chicago Tribune reporter Michael Ahern published a report that the fire started when a cow kicked a lantern over while being milked. Ahern didn't name Mrs. O'Leary, but soon it was determined that she was the person in the story.
In 1893, Ahern admitted to making the whole story up, but the story lives on.