Calls for emergency medical service continued to drive public demand on the Philadelphia Fire Department in 2011 as the number of fire-related deaths in the city remained stable.
Thirty-two people died in fires during the recently concluded calendar year, compared to 33 deaths over the same period in 2010, according to the fire department’s annual year-end report.
The 2011 fire-death figure remained slightly above the 10-year low of 30, which was the 2009 tally. The 10-year high is 52 fire deaths, which the city incurred in both 2005 and 2006.
Meanwhile, the fire department responded to 277,635 emergency calls in 2011. Among those, 229,709 or almost 83 percent, were for emergency medical service. EMS calls were up 2.9 percent last year compared to 2010, while the department’s total responses rose 2.5 percent.
While fire deaths remained relatively stagnant, the number of deaths involving the presence of inoperable smoke alarms, or the absence of them, virtually doubled to 27, despite continuing efforts by the fire department to educate the public about smoke alarms and to distribute and install the devices to those in need through the department’s Freedom from Fire program.
In 2011, the department installed 10,725 smoke alarms throughout the city at no cost to recipients.
“The program, which made its debut in 2008, remains one of the most effective methods of disseminating information about fire safety,” the department stated in an official summary of the year-end statistics. “It also allows the fire department a means to identify residents who are in need of smoke alarms but lack the resources to purchase one.”
Despite those efforts, some folks still didn’t get the message.
Eighteen people died in fires in 12 structures that had no smoke alarms or in which the batteries were dead or had been removed from the alarms. Another nine people died in structure fires in which smoke alarms activated, the department said. In some cases, the alarms activated, but were not installed on the floors where the fires occurred, hindering early warning to occupants.
Among all 32 deaths, 10 were blamed on fires caused by non-permanent electrical wiring, such as extension cords, while seven were blamed on smoking and four on open flame (such as candles or a cigarette lighter). Permanent electrical wiring caused three fire deaths, while one resulted from children playing with matches. Additional fire deaths were blamed on a electrical appliance (gas dryer) and an exterior gas explosion.
The largest portion of the deaths (18) occurred between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. in 13 separate fires. These fatalities included 14 adults and four children.
There were four multiple-fatality fires during 2011, resulting in 11 total deaths.
Fires also caused injuries to 171 people during the calendar year, 14 of which occurred in fires that were intentionally set and classified as arsons. Another 35 people suffered carbon monoxide-related injuries.
In 2010, there were 205 fire injuries plus 33 carbon monoxide injuries. ••EndFragment