With fatal fires on the rise from previous years, the State Fire Marshal’s Office is urging citizens to increase fire safety awareness and fire escape planning in and around their homes.
According to State Fire Marshal Butch Browning, there have been 38 fire-related deaths so far in 2021, compared to 34 at this time last year.
“At the start of the year, we were seeing a concerning trend with fire fatalities, though just one loss of life is always one too many,” Browning said in a statement. “After a call to action to the public, those tragedies, thankfully, became less frequent. But now that we’ve hit the midway point of the year, I want to renew that call to action in hopes of preventing a continued elevated count of fire deaths in the latter part of the year.”
Browning said the causes of this year’s fatal fires “have been across the board,” ranging from unattended cooking and unsafe smoking practices to various electrical issues stemming from improper electrical wiring.
Though the number of fire deaths is up slightly, the number of requests to the SFM to conduct fire investigations is down, as is the number of fires determined to be intentionally set.
“The first line of defense against fire is prevention,” Browning said. “Prevention starts with awareness. I’m asking all Louisiana families to be aware of the fire hazards currently in your home and address them sooner rather than later. I’m also hoping the fire safety tips we have to offer help families keep fire hazards from developing in their homes.”
Some cooking safety tips Browning shared included:
-- Stay in the kitchen when you are cooking anything on the stove.
-- Avoid cooking when you’re tired or impaired.
-- Make sure your cooking space is free of clutter and combustible materials.
-- Ensure children are at least 3 feet away from an active stove, sharp objects and hot foods and/or liquids.
-- Keep a lid close by in the event a small, stovetop fire occurs that can be smothered by placing the lid over it and turning off the heat.
“But if a large cooking fire occurs, get yourself and any other occupants out of the home immediately and call 911 for help,” Browning said.
Regarding smoking, Browning said “it’s always best to smoke outdoors.”
“Ensure all smoking materials are properly extinguished in the appropriate manner and keep all spark-producing objects, like lighters, out of the reach of children,” he said. “Also, refrain from smoking when tired or under the influence of alcohol or medications that make you drowsy.”
When it comes to electrical safety, the fire marshal reminded people to avoid connecting extension cords and power strips to create power sources where a wall outlet does not exist. He also warned against overloading those cords and strips if using them for temporary purposes.
“Plug all appliances directly into wall outlets to prevent overheating of wires,” he said. “And if your home is experiencing electrical issues, have a licensed electrician evaluate the situation and make any needed repairs.”
Many of the fire cases have involved homes with no working smoke alarms or sprinkler systems, something Browning urged citizens to obtain.
“Smoke alarms are a proven tool to alert residents to a fire danger in order to escape safely while home fire sprinklers can immediately limit the threat to life and damage to property,” he said. “The SFM’s Operation Save-A-Life partners with local fire departments to install smoke alarms for free for families that need them most.”
To learn more about Operation Save-A-Life, or to register for a smoke alarm installation, visit lasfm.org