City has record low in fire deaths

Posted: January 03, 2014

FEWER PEOPLE DIED in fires in 2013 than in any other year in Philadelphia history, fire officials said yesterday.

Last year, the city had 24 fire fatalities, one fewer than in 2012, but considerably lower than other years in the last decade. In both 2005 and 2006, 52 people died in blazes.

One of last year's victims was the Fire Department's own.

Capt. Michael Robert Goodwin Sr., a 29-year veteran and 53-year-old father of two, was killed April 5 battling a three-alarm blaze on Fabric Row in Queen Village.

The roof of the three-story building collapsed, trapping Goodwin, a captain of Ladder 27, Platoon B, inside the burning building. Another firefighter, Andrew Godlinski, suffered burns to his hands trying to rescue Goodwin.

Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers told reporters at the time, with tears in his eyes, that Goodwin was the "guy who looked after his folks . . . a ladder man, a firefighter's firefighter."

His death came just short of the first-year anniversary of the Kensington warehouse blaze that killed Capt. Robert Neary, 59, and Daniel Sweeney, 25, both of Ladder 10.

Of the 24 fire fatalities last year, 18 of the victims were 50 and older, with six of them at least 85 years old.

Eleven of the deaths happened in properties that did not have smoke alarms or had smoke alarms with inoperable or missing batteries.

"In keeping with the Fire Department's goal of zero fire fatalities and full implementation of Community Risk Reduction, smoke alarms continue to be the best method for early warning of fires, and Philadelphia continues to see a trend of reduction of fire fatalities," Ayers said in a statement.

As part of its "Freedom from Fire" program, the Fire Department installed 7,417 smoke alarms powered by 10-year lithium batteries in 4,628 homes.

Of last year's fire deaths, electrical wiring and smoking caused six each, cooking resulted in four, portable electric heaters triggered two, a portable kerosene heater one, and an open flame one. The causes of four were undetermined.

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