The Great Chicago fire burned for 2 days in 1871. It killed more than 300 people and destroyed around 3.3 square miles of the city. More than 100,000 residents were left homeless. The city’s buildings, homes and even sidewalks and roads were made mainly of wood. Shingles and tar which are highly flammable were used on all rooftops. A severe drought, southwesterly winds, and a toppling lantern helped create an inferno. An overworked and understaffed fire department with horse-drawn steam engines were initially dispatched to the incorrect address. An alarm sent from a nearby location was never received. Fire prevention and standards were almost immediately born in the aftermath.
Twenty-five years later the insurance firms’ which suffered devastating losses from the Great Fire, collaborated through the years and came up with the NFPA. The National Fire Protection Association is a U.S. Trade association formed in 1896. Its goal was to standardize the sprinkler systems which was a new item at the time. It has and still does, create and maintain private, copyrighted standards and codes for usage and adoption by local governments. They published more than 300 codes which are intended to MINIMIZE the possibility and effects of fire and other risks.
If we all take a minute and think about all of the potentially combustible things in our everyday life at home, work, stores, schools, hospitals, and nature you would begin to understand that your local fire departments have a daunting responsibility. This is why prevention and the NFPA standards became the norm. Automated fire systems, sprinkler systems, and portable extinguishers became pervasive. These systems and tanks all have working parts that require maintenance and regular inspections to determine their ability to function when needed. Fire departments began going door to door doing site inspections on all businesses to ensure that owners adhered to the codes of the NFPA. They are mainly generating AWARENESS but also cite owners for potential risks to themselves, employees, visitors, and neighboring commercial enterprises.
Without all of these codes and enforcement, who knows how our country and cityscapes would look today.