Vail Fire Department celebrates Fire Prevention Week with Oct. 7 open house |

Vail Fire Department celebrates Fire Prevention Week with Oct. 7 open house

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 in recognition of National Fire Prevention Week. The event is set from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 7.

The family-friendly event will include activities for guests of all ages including station tours, equipment displays and a kids’ obstacle course. Activities will also include fire safety information on smoke alarms, exit drills and carbon monoxide alarms presented by the department’s fire prevention division. Free hot dogs and chips will be served.

National Fire Prevention Week is Oct. 8-14 and this year’s theme is “Every Second Counts: Plan 2 Ways Out.” The national campaign reinforces why everyone needs to have an escape plan, said Vail Fire Chief Mark Novak.

The open house at the West Vail Fire Station and related school visits will educate students on the importance of drawing a map of their home and practicing fire drills with family members. During the sessions, firefighters will be teaching children about closing doors to slow the spread of smoke, flames and heat. Students will also learn about staying outside a burning building and not going back inside to retrieve belongings.

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 an oil 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 and O’Leary for more than 130 years. But recent research by Chicago historian Robert Cromie has helped to 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 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. O’Leary herself swore that she’d been in bed early that night, and that the cows were also tucked in for the evening.

For more information, call Novak at 970-477-3474 or email

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