While the winter months always bring sharp increases in home fires, the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) says home fire deaths reported by the news media are above those reported at this time last year. According to media reports, home fires had already claimed 148 lives in January, 24 more than reported during the same period last year. Home fire incidence is collectively highest in the three winter months of January, February and March, according to USFA. Cooking and heating are the leading causes of these fires. The risk of fire also increases with the use of electric space heaters, fireplaces and wood stoves. Older adults (50 deaths) and children (28 deaths) accounted for more than half of home fire deaths reported by the news media in January. The following are reports of some of the fire deaths reported in January, which give an indication of the toll on families affected:
• A grandmother and three young children died in a house fire in Gloucester County, Va.
• Two women died in a house fire in Scuddy, Ky. The cause of the fire is believed to be a skillet left on the stove.
• A father, mother and their two daughters, ages 13 and nine, were killed in a house fire in Mountain View, Ark.
• A grandmother and three young children died in a house fire in Haltom City, Texas. The fire started near a Christmas tree.
• A 52-year-old-woman and her 28-year-old daughter died in a house fire in Akron, Ohio. Firefighters report not finding any smoke alarms in the home.
• A father and his four young children died in a Pike County, Ky. home fire. Investigators report that an electric heater likely caused the fire.
• Four young children, all under the age of seven, died in a Conyers, Ga., house fire. There were no working smoke alarms in the house.
• Four family members spanning three generations died in a fire involving a Christmas tree in Rockford, Ill.
While the results from the investigation weren’t available at press time, it appears that space heaters, candles and cooking are among the causes suspected in a number of these tragic incidents. Whatever the cause of the fires, I suspect each of these deaths was preventable.
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