WEST CHAZY - The Great Chicago Fire killed more than 250 people and left 100,000 homeless in early October 1871. During that same time, the Peshtigo Fire occurred in Wisconsin - known as the most devastating forest fire in American history.
Nearly 40 years later, fire departments across the nation continue a tradition of informing the public of the importance of fire safety and prevention, on a regular basis.
"So, today we do fire prevention to be able to try and prevent any of that sort of stuff from happening," explained fire instructor Mark Lafountain of the Beekmantown Fire Department.
Lafountain worked alongside numerous other volunteers to bring fire prevention to Beekmantown Elementary School Oct. 11 during Fire Safety Week, which is held annually during the week the Great Chicago Fire occurred.
"It's taken Beekmantown, ... Clinton County Fire Fighters Association, District No. 3 Fire Department, West Chazy EMS, state police with their rollover simulator ... and Homeland Security for U.S. Customs and Border Patrol ... to help make today happen," said Lafountain. "The reason we involve so many fire departments is because the school district actually encompasses all these different fire districts," Lafountain added. "It's an all-encompassing effort. One fire department alone can't do the job."
Students from the school spent 15 minutes at six different stations which teach fire and life safety.
"This is the first Fire Safety Day that I've been a part of," said principal Matthew Slattery. "It's a great opportunity for students to see all the agencies work together in our area and what they do."
Students were able see firefighters practice "Stop, Drop and Roll," a police officer show what happens to those who don't use seatbelts, and go through the smoke simulation trailer.
"I'm impressed with this event all around," said Slattery, who noted Fire Safety Day has only been at the school for two years.
Slattery is now working with the organizers of the event to make it even better for next year.
"They had some great ideas about getting the students more involved with some fireman exercises," he said. "Each year, if we can tweak it and make it better, everyone benefits ... We're really very thankful to everyone pitching in and helping us out in educating our students."