Phila. has record-low year in fire deaths

Posted: January 04, 2014

PHILADELPHIA For the second year in a row, Philadelphia recorded a modern-day record-low number of fire deaths in 2013.

Fires caused 24 fatalities last year, Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers reported Thursday.

The city recorded 25 deaths in 2012, seven fewer than the year before and less than half the 52 that occurred in 2005 and 2006.

The new figures are a stark contrast to the fatalities suffered in Philadelphia in the 1970s and 1980s, Ayers said.

"There were a lot of bad years. It was not uncommon to have 100-plus fire deaths in a year," he said.

Fatalities last topped 100 in 1989, Ayers said. The city's records date to the early 1950s.

Ayers attributed the turnaround to improvements in the way buildings are made - including the required use of smoke alarms - enforcement of fire codes, and fire-prevention education.

The Fire Department suffered one on-duty casualty in 2013: Capt. Michael Goodwin, 53, died in April battling a blaze in Queen Village. His death is recorded separately from those of the 24 civilians.

Of the 24 deaths, six resulted from fires caused by electrical wiring.

Six people died in fires started by lit cigarettes.

Four died in fires started by cooking, two by portable electric heaters, one by a portable kerosene heater, and one by an open flame. Causes were undetermined for the remaining four fires that resulted in deaths.

The city saw an increase in fire-related injuries, but those also include activities such as cooking burns and workplace accidents.

In 2008, Ayers implemented a sustained fire-prevention program that has resulted in the Fire Department's installing in 4,628 residences a total of 7,417 smoke alarms powered by 10-year lithium batteries.

There was some initial resistance in the department to having firefighters go door to door for education and the installation of fire alarms.

"Now they love it," Ayers said. The program is a way to "put the fire out before it starts."

The department has a fire-prevention app that can be accessed by smartphone at www.freedomfromfire.com/fsapp-info/.


bmoran@phillynews.com

215-854-5983 @RobertMoran215

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