The number of fire deaths for 2019 is expected to end up above last year’s total. The spokesman for the State Fire Marshal’s office, Ron Humphrey says the number will end up around 50.
“It’s going to be up about ten from last year — but it’s also down six from the year before in 2017,” Humphrey says. “The trend over the last 15 years or so has been slightly up. Back in 2006 our average was just over 30.” He says there is not one factor he can link to the increase.
“It’s really hard to say. I know in 2017 when we were at 56 — which was the highest we had been in a long time — we had several multiple fatality fires where we lost three, four, five people in one incident and that threw our numbers way up. I can’t put my finger on one thing,” Humphrey says. He does say newer types of building materials with composite wood and other products do tend to burn faster.
“You do get a fire going and they burn through a lot quicker and they’ve got the glues in them that add to the combustibility and the spread of the fire. And add to the toxic fumes in the structure,” Humphrey says. “So, the lightweight building materials do have something to do with it — but again you can’t really put your finger on it and say that causes X amount of additional fatalities a year.” He says one thing they are trying to do is continue to push everyone to install and maintain smoke detectors.
“It seems like over 50 percent of our fires — either the structure didn’t have smoke detectors in it — or had smoke detectors that weren’t working properly,” he says. Humphrey says the smoke detectors can provide the extra seconds needed to get people safely out of a burning structure.
“Still find when we have fatality fires that they either don’t have them or they weren’t properly maintained,” Humphrey says. Humphrey says the final number could change in the last days of the year. He says a fire death is not added to the list until there is confirmation from the state medical examiner that fire was the official cause.