Vail Fire Department holds open house |

Vail Fire Department holds open house

Daily staff report

VAIL — Vail Fire and Emergency Services is inviting community members to stop by the West Vail Fire Station, 2399 North Frontage Road, for an open house Oct. 8 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The family-friendly event will include activities for guests of all ages, including station tours, equipment displays and a kids’ obstacle course in recognition of National Fire Prevention Week. Activities will also include fire safety information regarding smoke alarms, exit drills and carbon monoxide alarms presented by the Fire Prevention Division. Free hot dogs and chips will be served as well.

Fire Prevention Week this year runs from Sunday through Oct. 16. This year’s theme is “Check the Date! Replace Smoke Alarms Every 10 Years.” Firefighters will be visiting schools to share this and other safety messages throughout the week.

Fire Prevention Week was established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire, the 1871 blaze that killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres. The fire began on Oct. 8 and continued into and did most of its damage on Oct. 9, 1871.

According to popular legend, the fire broke out after a cow belonging to Mrs. Catherine O’Leary kicked over a lamp, setting first the barn, then the whole city on fire. Chances are you’ve heard some version of this story yourself; people have been blaming the Great Chicago Fire on the cow for more than 130 years. But recent research by Chicago historian Robert Cromie has helped debunk this version of events.

Like any good story, the “case of the cow” has some truth to it. The great fire almost certainly started near the barn where Mrs. O’Leary kept her five milking cows. But there is no proof that O’Leary was in the barn when the fire broke out — or that a jumpy cow sparked the blaze. Mrs. O’Leary herself swore she’d been in bed early that night, and that the cows were also tucked in for the evening.

Join your local firefighters on Saturday and share your theories. For more information, please contact Vail Fire Chief Mark Novak at 970-477-3474 or email

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