Oct. 8, 1871 "was the anniversary date of the Great Chicago Fire,” said WRJFD educator Bill O’Hara. “That’s why we celebrate fire safety.”
He said that the descendants of Mrs. Catherine O’Leary had gone to court and had the cow cleared as the cause of the fire. It was for a long time, according to O’Hara, believed that O’Leary’s cow had kicked over an oil lamp to start the blaze. He said the cause is now listed as unknown.
Since that incident, the week of Oct. 8 has become Fire Safety Week and fire departments across the nation present programs to children and seniors. In Poland, the program was given to first-graders in a special assembly on Thursday. O’Hara was joined by Poland firefighters Conner O’Halloran, Robert Sanchez and Gio Melia.
Part of the program included what a firefighter wears. O’Hara had a youth-sized firefighter’s uniform complete with a small fake airpack. Student Dominic Pagan volunteered to suit up and O’Halloran gave him a hand while firefighter Robert Sanchez put on the real gear, right down to the sealed air unit.
Once outfitted, O’Halloran spoke through the face shield so children could hear what he sounded like.
“I know he looks a little scary, but when you see a firefighter in full uniform, I just want you to know he is your friend and is there to help you,” O’Hara told the students. “You needn’t be afraid of him.”
O’Hara also covered what smoke detectors do and when to call 9-1-1.
“You don’t call 9-1-1 for a cat stuck in a tree,” he said. “You only call 9-1-1 when you need a fireman, a policeman, or an ambulance. Those are the only three reasons to call 9-1-1.”
After the brief assembly, the first-graders were invited into the parking lot to view a WRJFD fire truck. When the morning was over, the students learned a lot about fire safety and what to do in an emergency.
Photos by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Poland firefighter Conner O’Halloran helps demonstrate the fireman’s uniform using Poland Union first-grader Dominic Pagan.