Fire Related Deaths in Alabama Hit Alarming Number

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Even though the calendar still says January, 2014 looks like it could be a record breaking year for the Alabama State Fire Marshal’s Office.

So far, 15 Alabamians have been killed in fire related accidents this year. What’s more unsettling about that number is the Alabama State Fire Marshal says all but one of those fires could have been prevented.

“One is a homicide case and the rest of them have been accidental,” explained Edward Paulk, Alabama State Fire Marshal. “But anytime there is a loss of life, there needs to be a proper investigation with an autopsy, and those investigations take time. Everything else that we would normally be doing is put on hold, even some non-fatal fires.”

On average, Alabama has around 100 fire related death a year, but with 15 deaths already around the state, Paulk is alarmed.

“I don't have an answer as to why other than the fact that we have had some extremely cold temperatures and people have been making some poor decisions. We need to make sure we keep in mind that decisions we make before we go to bed will affect whether or not we wake up.”

Nationally, there are more fires during the winter months. Officials say it is because residents are trying to find ways to stay warm.

“During our three colder months we see people looking for alternate means of heating, whether that means space heaters or other means that are not appropriate inside a home and then those tend to cause fires as well,” explained Chris Etheredge, Dothan Battalion Chief.

2014 is looking good for the Dothan Fire Department. So far, there hasn’t been a fire related death. However, that hasn’t always been the case.

“It seems to run in spells, we had two [deaths] in 2013, two in 2012, none in 2011, and then we had two in 2009 and one in 2008,” said Etheredge.

However, there are easy preventative steps that homeowners can take in order to keep themselves safe.

“Over the last few years and we see that the majority of our fire injuries and fatalities occur between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. so those times that we are sleeping is when we have those fatalities,” explained Etheredge. “Having a working smoke detector that can alert you and let you know that there is a problem in your home is critical.”

The Dothan Fire Department will provide residents with a free smoke detector. Those in need are asked to call 615-3473 to schedule a time to have their device installed.

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