Beaufort area firefighters participated this week in the nation's longest-running public safety observance.
Members of the Beaufort Fire Department, Burton Fire District and Lady's Island-St. Helena Fire District appeared at schools and churches urging people to check their smoke detectors and buy fire extinguishers for their homes. They also preached other messages as part of National Fire Prevention Week.
The event was started in 1922 by President Woodrow Wilson to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 that killed more than 250 people and destroyed more than 17,400 buildings.
Lee Levesque, spokesman for the Lady's Island-St. Helena district, said the department stresses fire safety year-round but typically makes an extra effort to get the word out during October.
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"People are more aware of fire prevention this time of year, so we like to capitalize on that awareness," Levesque said. "We have been to four schools and three churches so far. We can't fit everyone into one week so, for us, it's not Fire Prevention Week but 'fire prevention couple of weeks.' "
Burton firefighters appeared throughout their jurisdiction this week to preach the importance of having fire extinguishers on hand, according to Dan Byrne, district spokesman.
"The majority of fires in Beaufort County, in South Carolina, in the United States are unattended cooking fires that could have been put out before firefighters arrived," Byrne said. "All of the damage and destruction ... could have been avoided if a fire extinguisher had been mounted in the kitchen, and someone knew how to use them."
Officials from the Beaufort Fire Department met with hundreds of school children this month to offer the basics of fire prevention and safety, department officials said.
"We want to be sure the younger children understand the dangers of fire, but we also want them to talk to their parents about a fire-escape plan and the value of smoke detectors," Capt. John Robinson said in a statement.
Of the 65 people who were killed in fires last year in South Carolina, more than 50 died in their homes, according to S.C. Fire Marshal Adolf Zubia.
Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at twitter.com/ProtectServeBft.