Northeast Times

Philadelphia Fire Dept. releases year-end report

Start­Frag­ment

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

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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