Every year in our country since 1922, Fire Prevention Week has been observed during the month of October.

It was established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Over two days, this fire killed more than 250 people, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres.

The cause or blame for this fire is one of legend and myth and has involved everything from Mrs. O’Leary and her cows to meteorites and neighborhood boys. So in 1920, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation declaring National Fire Prevention Day.

Ever since 1922, Fire Prevention Week has been observed every year on the Sunday through Saturday period in which Oct. 9 falls. This annual event is not celebrated with festivities but as a way to keep the public informed about the importance of fire prevention.

Over the years, the theme for this week has had a variety of fire-prevention topics. Some of these came about as a result of the previous years’ statistics related to fire cause, deaths and injuries compiled by the National Fire Protection Association, United States Fire Administration and other reporting organizations.

Safety campaigns  over the years have focused on preventing cooking fires, care with candles, exit drills in the home and, in recent years, smoke detectors.

This years theme is “Don’t Wait — Check the Date! Replace Smoke Alarms Every 10 Years.”  The idea behind this is that smoke alarms don’t last forever and should be replaced at a 10-year interval.

While the audible alarm may sound when you push the test button, the internal mechanical part that detects the smoke particles to activate the alarm in an emergency or presence of smoke may not be reliable many years later.

To check the date, simply remove the detector and look at the label on the back. If you are within the timeframe, remember to change your batteries twice a year when we fall back and spring forward during time changes or sooner, if needed.

Three out of five home fire deaths result from fires in properties without working smoke alarms. They really do save lives.

In addition to the national fire prevention campaign, also remember that this time of year in Southern California our fire season continues with the threat of Santa Ana winds. It is important to remain vigilant and continue to create and maintain your defensible space around the home and be prepared.

Fire season is not over yet, and our area is still vulnerable to wildfires.