A smoke alarm saved the life of a Kingsport resident recently by alerting her to a fire in her home. The Kingsport Fire Department responded to the Virginia Avenue residence and quickly extinguished the blaze. No injuries were reported, and the cause of the fire is under investigation.
Also fortunate were residents of a home on Inglewood Drive in Kingsport earlier this year when city firefighters responded to a 6:30 a.m. fire that engulfed the home. Two adults and two children escaped the fire uninjured.
Home fires are increasing. Unfortunately, so are fatalities. The National Fire Protection Association reports that residential fires across the country have risen 8% since 2000. For overall home fires the death rate per 1,000 fires was 15% higher in 2019 than in 1980, despite advances in home safety and firefighting equipment.
And Tennessee is one of six states with the highest risk of dying in a fire, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Leading the list are Mississippi and Oklahoma. Following them with a similar risk are Tennessee, Louisiana, Kansas and Alabama. The national fire death rate is 11.7 persons per million. Tennessee’s is 21.4.
There is encouraging news, however. The Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office released its annual report last month showing that during the pandemic, home fires decreased from 8,743 to 8,080 over the previous 12 months. However, fatalities increased statewide from 91 to 95.
What’s causing these fires? The top three causes are cooking, responsible for half of all home fires nationwide, heating equipment (12.5%) and electrical malfunctions (6.3%). One in 20 (5%) home structure fires were started by smoking materials, and these fires caused almost one in four home fire deaths.
We all should join the fight to bring these numbers down and save lives. It doesn’t take a lot of effort. Most important is to get working smoke detectors in your home at multiple locations. Otherwise, if you use space heaters or any other portable heaters, be sure to keep them at least 3 feet away from any flammable objects such as blankets or curtains. Don’t leave candles burning, and put out those cigarettes.
Conduct a safety inspection of your entire home. If you find crowded junction boxes in the basement, have them inspected and repaired if necessary so that an electrical fire does not take a life in your home. Clean up old rags and trash in basements and garages that could fuel a fire. Take care of crowded electrical outlets and extension cords, and be sure to have a fire extinguisher in your home.
Do safety drills with the entire family so that everyone in your family knows how to exit your home from every room in the event of fire. Don’t be a statistic.