GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN -- In commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire, which began on Oct. 8, 1871, Fire Prevention Week is observed each year during the week of Oct. 9. This year's theme "Plan And Practice Your Escape. Be aware. Fire can happen anywhere!" is designed to protect your family in case of a fire.

Garmisch Fire Chief Wolfgang Pauls-Polch conducted a fire drill at Garmisch Elementary and Middle School on the morning of Oct. 10. Students and teachers gathered in the designated area next to the school building after the alarm went off and everyone evacuated from the building.

Together with the Fire Chief, the students practiced how to hold a charged firehose and felt the powerful resistance as the water coursed through it.

Following the demonstration, Kindergarten, first and second grade students were met by Freiwillige Feurwehr (volunteer fire department) Garmisch -- Partenkirchen firefighter "Peppi.

Together with him and the fire truck driver, they enjoyed a ride in the firetruck through the housing area complete with sirens and flashing blue lights. Since the Garmisch Community doesn't have its own fire department, the German-American cooperation with the Garmisch-Partenkirchen department is critical. Pauls-Polch has maintained a close working relationship since he joined the Garmisch team in 2005.

"We are very lucky to have such great relationships with all emergency responders in the Garmisch area," Pauls-Polch said. "From both Garmisch and Partenkirchen, we receive great support from their host nation fire departments, whenever the need arises."

Fire safety education isn't just for school children. Teenagers, adults and the elderly are also at risk in fires, making it important for every member of the community to take some time every October during Fire Prevention Week to make sure they understand how to stay safe in case of a fire.

Pauls-Polch has offered Fire Warden and Fire Extinguisher classes all week during this year's fire prevention week. Fire drills were conducted at the local FMWR facilities to ensure children, youth and staff are aware of the procedures in case of a real emergency.

In a fire, mere seconds can mean the difference between a safe escape and a tragedy.

During his presentations, Pauls-Polch emphasized "to review your fire safety plans within your home and family more often than just during Fire Prevention Week every October."