AUGUSTA – Fire marshals say 20 fatalities per year is not uncommon, but a new trend is raising some eyebrows.
It is a pattern that has fire marshals scratching their heads. Typically when a fire occurs, there is usually one victim.
“We are seeing some strengths in the number that I find concerning and that’s multiplicities in the numbers,” said Joseph Thomas, a fire marshal.
Which means fires are claiming more lives in single occurrences. Some ranging from 2 to 6.
“Most of the time when you look at the data on fire fatality you see at an individual,” he said.
Fire marshals are trying to find out what’s making the difference.
“What I am seeing is – the biggest thing that we harp on – there’s no early warning,” said Thomas, “Consequently both parties have no ability for escape.”
They say having working smoke detectors are a big part of the solution.
“You have to know that there’s something happening in your home, in regards to a fire,” he said ,”If you don’t have that early warning, especially at night while you are sleeping – If you don’t have that early warning device, you’re never going to get out of that building alive.”
They are encouraging people to plan ahead and create emergency escape routes with the entire family. Fire marshals are also concerned with elderly people living alone because of the risk of falls. They have started an initiative called Remembering When. It’s a program, in partnership with the National Fire Protection Association that pairs older adults with trained volunteers who check in on them.
“Once they fall that starts the cycle and the falls become more often and become damaging such as injury concern,” said Thomas, “What happens, the whole mobility issue equals time.”
During a fire emergency, getting out as quickly as possible is key to survival.
“Before flashover you have to get out,” he said, “What happens is, the more the elderly are having difficulties in their abilities to escape, then that’s when we are seeing that the likelihood that they are not going to be able to escape.”
This program provides elderly people with extra support, so that potential fire safety issues could be spotted before a situation arises. They are hoping to kick off the initiative early next year and will be holding a seminar.