WASHINGTON — Arizona had the nation’s lowest risk of fire death in 2010, a fact experts attributed to everything from a relatively low number of high-rises to building codes in some localities that require residential sprinklers.
The U.S. Fire Administration said the fire-death rate for Arizona was 5.5 per million residents in 2010, the last year for which official statistics are available.
Arizona joined two other states – Oregon and Massachusetts – where the likelihood of death in a structure fire was half the national rate of 11.1 deaths per million.
There had been at least 26 civilian fire deaths reported in Arizona as of Thursday, according to media reports tracked by USFA, putting the state roughly on track with last year.
While fire death rates in Arizona and nationwide have been declining for decades, experts said the numbers are still too high for what should be preventable losses.
“Fire in the United States still is a very big problem,” said U.S. Fire Administrator Ernest Mitchell Jr.
“We still need to have a sense of urgency” about preventing fires, said Mitchell, whose agency was established in 1974 to educate the public on fire safety and combat public indifference to fire prevention.
His comments came at the kickoff Monday of “Fire is Everyone’s Fight.” The awareness campaign aims to “change the way people think” about fires – from looking at them as accidents, to seeing them as things they can prevent or protect against, Mitchell said.
Simple steps such as testing smoke alarms and taking precautions while cooking could prevent many household fires, which he said make up more than 80 percent of fire deaths and 76 percent of fire injuries.
Additional measures, such as home sprinkler systems, are becoming more affordable, he said, with insurance companies providing discounts of 13 to 30 percent on premiums for homeowners who install them.
Sprinklers were cited as one of the factors responsible for low fire fatality rates in Arizona, said State Fire Marshal Bob Barger. He pointed to building codes in Scottsdale, Fountain Hills and Paradise Valley that have “zero tolerance” for new construction without them.
But the best mechanism is prevention, he said, a lot of which comes through educating children about fire safety in school so they take the message home to their parents.
“It’s a combination of things,” Barger said. “Awareness is the biggest – education and prevention.”
The Phoenix Fire Department does more than 500 education and awareness events a year, said Capt. Jonathan Jacobs, and requests for such events have been increasing.
“When they call, we get someone there,” he said.
Jacobs said one of the most important messages is to remind people to have working smoke detectors in places like their kitchens and the hallways outside bedrooms.
“That right there is the single thing that’s going to save someone’s life,” Jacobs said. “Most people don’t die from fire, they die from smoke inhalation, carbon dioxide poisoning … they’re incapacitated in some fashion by the smoke.”
Smoke detector batteries should be replaced at least once a year and the detectors themselves should be replaced every eight to 10 years, experts say. Newer smoke alarms can detect smoke from both slow-moving smoldering fires and fast-moving flash fires, Jacobs said, which is critical when every second counts.
Barger said a fire doubles in size every 30 seconds, which is why it is “even more important to have early warning.”
“Almost every time we have a fatality, it’s because the fire alarm has been taken apart or the batteries removed,” Barger said.
Pam Elliott, a nurse and fire prevention advocate, suffered third-degree burns over 50 percent of her body in a fire in her West Virginia home when she was 5.
She joined Mitchell on Monday to urge homeowners and homebuilders to install fire sprinklers, which she said not only help give children and the elderly more time to get out, but also reduce property damage from fires.
“Combining smoke alarms, a practiced fire escape plan, and installing home fire sprinklers, we can reduce fire death by 82 percent and fire damage by 97 percent,” Elliott said. She added that it has been more than 50 years “since my injury and we need a lot more prevention.”
- 6 coolest things brewing in Arizona
- The virus that keeps head and neck cancers on the rise
- State Fair ‘Kid Reporter’ has all the angles covered
- 4 important things to know about timeshare maintenance fees
- Signs of delayed car crash injuries
- The truth about sports concussions
- The Alzheimer's epidemic: Facts you need to know
- The season is here, keep your Fantasy Football team strong all season
- 8 TV shows you can't miss this fall
- Football is here: 6 tips to make this your best season ever
- Gameday recipes and beers to match
- 6 reasons the Cardinals are driven to win the Super Bowl
- The Pac-12 football season nears kickoff
- Tips to get ready for a pain-free golf season
- Protect your family with these 7 home security features
- How to train like an Olympic swimmer
- 2016 Olympics: A guide to must-see TV events
- The bride's guide to feeling your best on your wedding day
- Deciding when you need knee surgery
- Celebrating Fourth of July is much cooler in these AZ towns
- Top ten road trip bathrooms in America
- Six things causing a pain in your neck
- 5 things to make your summer move easier
- Three elements of a strong timeshare exit guarantee
- Stretches and exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome
- The best Major League ballparks have their own personality
- Comparing the best regular seasons: The '96 Bulls and '16 Warriors
- 3 Arizona road trips and the vehicles to get you there
- Colon cancer is preventable. Check these signs and symptoms to stay healthy.
- 6 of the biggest skin cancer myths