The O’Leary Factor

From out the mouths of children, wisdom

I was a fourth grader on Oct. 8, 2017, when I woke to furious winds and I looked out the window to see fire in the yard. Our smoke alarms rang and I yelled to my parents: “Fire! Let’s get out of here!” We all rushed into the car, drove through flames, barely made it out alive and didn’t stop till we got to my Auntie’s house in Oakland.

Days later, when I learned all my toys and home were gone, it reminded me of the book I read weeks before the fire called I Survived the Great Chicago Fire, 1871 by Lauren Tarshis. I asked my dad if we were going to rebuild like they did in Chicago. He said yes. I then asked would our house and the others in Santa Rosa be built out of brick like in Chicago? He didn’t know.

Then I reread that book, and saw, amazingly, that it was the same date as our fire here in Santa Rosa: Oct. 8. Wow! I also learned that it was actually only after the second fire of Chicago, in 1874, that the Windy City made big changes. Are we going to wait for another fire here in Sonoma County before we make big changes? I hope not.

Here is what Chicago did back in 1874:

All future buildings needed to be built out of brick, because insurance companies were going to leave if this wasn’t done in all of Chicago. No tar roofs either!

The New Fire Academy was created where O’Leary’s infamous cow knocked over the lantern, so firefighters could learn new fire-fighting techniques.

Businesses and the city of Chicago worked together to develop fire-alert systems, so nobody else would need to run for their lives in the event of another big fire.

I don’t think we need to build everything out of brick here in Santa Rosa, but I do hope we learn from the fires and make big changes. I still see smoke and ash in the Sonoma County sky, and I worry all the time. I love my home, and hope my mom and dad and the other adults will make it safe for me and my community.

Leo Abrams is 10 years old and awesome.

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Sonoma County Library