Fires, A Real Societal and Dangerous Problem!

On average, Alabama typically experiences over 100 deaths per year associated with fires. Nationally, the average number of deaths per year from fires is around 4,000.  This means that someone is dying from a fire every 3 hours, approximately.  Approximately 75% of all annual deaths from fires involve a residential property.  The US Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that the total annual cost to society associated with fire losses is a staggering $182 billion.  Residential and non-residential STRUCTURE fires comprise 35% of all annual fires.  Alcohol use contributes to an estimated 40% of residential fire deaths.  Nearly one out of every seven fires to which a fire department responds involves a vehicle.

The fire problem is more severe for some groups than others.  People in the southeast, males, the elderly, African Americans, and American Indians are all at higher risk from fire than the rest of the population.

Fire safety experts recommend that if you are confronted with or facing a residential fire that cannot be easily extinguished to call 911 first before trying to extinguish the fire as many have made the mistake of waiting until the last minute to call 911 which ultimately resulted in damages/injuries that could have been avoided if the fire department had been notified sooner and been able to arrive more promptly.

In both residential and non-residential structures, cooking is by far the leading cause of fires.  The leading cause of fatal fires in a residential setting is due to smoking cigarettes or other forms of tobacco products such as cigars or pipes.  Most victims of fires die from smoke or toxic gases and not from burn injuries.

A special study conducted by the US. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) shows that fireworks were involved in an estimated 9,600 injuries treated in hospitals in 2011.  The best way to protect your family is to not use fireworks at home and to leave the lighting to the professionals at public fireworks events.

Many folks will recall some of the more widely publicized fire incidents in recent history.  In 2003, the Station nightclub fire in Rhode Island that started from pyro techniques used by a band.  This fire incident resulted in 31 deaths.  Also, the Christmas Day fire in 2011 in Stamford, Connecticut that resulted in a family of 5 dying.  The fire was caused by hot, smoldering embers that were placed with other garbage.

Already in 2014, the City of Birmingham has experienced fires resulting in the death of six individuals and statewide, there have already been thirty lives lost due to fires.  The Hollis Wright Law Firm was recently retained to represent the family of one such individual that died in a house fire in 2014.

There are many proactive steps individuals can take to prevent fires and protect themselves if and when a fire starts.  Most individuals caught in a fire actually die from smoke inhalation and not burns.  To avoid smoke inhalation and protect yourself you should:

Install and maintain smoke detectors, which is the first line of defense in detecting fires in the early stages.

Actually try and sleep with your bedroom door closed or barely cracked to avoid the spread of smoke and fire.

When trying to escape, you and your children should crawl and stay low to the ground.  Hot Smoke rises and there is better air to breathe on the ground.

Develop and practice a “Home Escape Plan” with the family.  If your children are old enough to understand, teach them to run out of the house as fast as they can rather than call out for you and/or wait for you tom come get them.  Finally, establish a meeting place at a safe location outside.

Have a portable ladder somewhere upstairs in second story houses that the child or person can attach to the edge of a window and lower themselves to the ground on the outside.  These ladders can be folded up and are easy to store.

And of course, if you do catch on fire, utilize the “STOP, DROP and ROLL” method to help extinguish the flames.