Although a record low number of people died in Ohio fires last year, many of them perished in homes without working smoke detectors, the state’s fire marshal said yesterday.
With subzero weather expected to arrive early next week, Fire Marshal Larry Flowers urged Ohioans to heat their homes safely and ensure they have multiple operational detectors.
According to preliminary numbers from Flowers’ office, 103 people perished in Ohio fires in 2013, the fewest in the 27 years since the state began keeping annual records.
Five people died in fires in Franklin County last year. Four of them died in Columbus. One died in Hilliard.
Two people died in a single fatal fire last year in Fairfield County; Delaware and Union counties each had one fire fatality. No fire deaths occurred last year in Licking, Madison or Pickaway counties, according to the state’s early numbers.
Fire fatalities statewide have been dropping steadily since 2010, but Flowers said he worries that the message about the importance of working smoke detectors has not reached everyone.
Investigators confirmed that a working detector had been present in only 10 percent of the deaths.
“We have to keep up the push to let people know that working smoke alarms and an escape plan with at least two ways out will reduce fire deaths,” Flowers said. “It’s certainly still not ‘ mission accomplished.’?”
Flowers said that residents give all sorts of reasons why they don’t have working detectors in their home or even willfully deactivate them: forgetfulness, frequent nuisance alarms, cost, inattentive landlords.
Next week’s impending frigid weather likely will drive residents to rely upon alternate heating sources such as space heaters, Flowers said. The heaters are safe if used properly but can start fires when they are placed too close to furniture, bedding or other combustible household items.
The four fatalities that occurred in Columbus last year were the fewest since 2009, city records show. Columbus firefighters visit neighborhoods throughout the city every year, going door-to-door to ask residents whether they have operational alarms and handing out free ones if they don’t, Battalion Chief Patrick Ferguson said.
“We try to target areas where we’ve had a fatal fire,” he said. “Sometimes people just don’t listen.”
By Theodore Decker - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
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