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They're still dying — at a rate of 3,000 per year
Jul 29, 2011

As the title suggests, they're still dying. Each year, approximately 3,000 U.S. citizens die as a result of fire. As you probably know by now, most of these deaths are preventable with some common sense and advanced planning. The deaths I present to you are designed to show you how to avoid some of the situations that these folks found themselves in.

First, we head to Iowa, where a man on home oxygen died in his home, along with his wife, from a fire caused by careless disposal of smoking materials. Investigators determined that the fire started in the living room recliner chair where the man often sat during the day. They believe the man fell asleep while smoking. When he woke, he made his way to the kitchen and investigators believe he may have tried to fight the fire himself since water was flowing from the kitchen sink where he was found. There was only one smoke alarm in the home and it was not installed. It was found in a pile of materials under a table on the floor.

Obviously, you should not smoke while on home oxygen. Besides the health risks, oxygen increases the combustion process, spreading fire faster than normal in the oxygen-rich atmosphere. Upon awakening, you should leave the building and call the fire department from outside the home. While the kitchen was a little distance from the living room, the smoke was built up to a high level, which overcame the man. The smoke alarm should have been installed on a ceiling or high on a wall to give early warning of fire where smoke collects at high levels in the home.

Over to North Carolina we head, to look at the cause of death of a woman in a wheelchair. It was determined that the fire began when an electrical cord was run under a carpet and a loveseat. The wear on the cord went undetected until it finally gave off enough heat to ignite the carpet and start the fire. When firefighters arrived, there was so much heat, smoke and fire that the victim could not be reached until the fire was knocked down.

The lessons here are not to run electrical cords of any kind under rugs. The friction from normal walking breaks away at the insulated covering, leaving exposed wires to heat up the rugs placed over the cord. If the cord were exposed, any wearing would be easier to notice.

In Kentucky, a man died from an electrical fire. Piles of clothes were left on a power strip. Over time, the heat produced was able to start the clothing on fire. There were smoke alarms in the living room, hallway and bedroom, but none of them had batteries.

In this case, the heat from electricity was not given enough air space to dissipate the heat, as it is designed to. The heat was transferred to the piles of clothing when it then reached a high enough temperature to break out in flames. The smoke alarms need power to run, and the batteries in every one of the alarms were missing.

There are very few new and exciting ways to die from fire. They are the same ones, repeated about 3,000 times per year. Learn from them and live a safer life.

Tom Kiurski


Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.

IAFF Local 1164
14910 Farmington Rd.
Livonia, MI 48154

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