Fire deaths down, injuries up in 2013

Phil­adelphia’s fire deaths were down, but its fire-re­lated in­jur­ies were up in 2013, ac­cord­ing to year-end data re­leased by the city’s Fire De­part­ment on Jan. 2.

And while the Fire De­part­ment re­spon­ded to an in­creas­ing num­ber of emer­gency calls, the num­ber of fire emer­gen­cies de­clined com­pared to the pre­vi­ous year’s totals. In keep­ing with a trend of re­cent years, med­ic­al emer­gen­cies com­prised 84 per­cent of the fire de­part­ment’s 279,019 emer­gency re­sponses last year.

The an­nu­al stat­ist­ics re­vealed oth­er key trends. Among the re­cord-low of 24 fire fatal­it­ies, 18 vic­tims were at least 50 years old. Con­versely, among 182 fire-re­lated in­jur­ies, 110 in­volved vic­tims ages 49 and un­der.

The de­part­ment iden­ti­fied the city’s 24 fire deaths as the low­est an­nu­al total in re­cor­ded his­tory. There were 25 fire deaths in 2012. Last year’s deaths were less than half of the 10-year high of 52 re­cor­ded in both 2005 and 2006. Fire Com­mis­sion­er Lloyd Ay­ers cred­ited the de­part­ment’s con­tin­ued Com­munity Risk Re­duc­tion pro­gram, par­tic­u­larly its dis­tri­bu­tion and in­stall­a­tion of free smoke alarms to at-risk city res­id­ents, for help­ing the de­part­ment strive to­ward its goal of zero fire deaths.

“Smoke alarms con­tin­ue to be the best meth­od for early warn­ing of fires, and Phil­adelphia con­tin­ues to see a trend in the re­duc­tion of fire fatal­it­ies,” Ay­ers said.

The Com­munity Risk Re­duc­tion pro­gram also in­cludes oth­er fire pre­ven­tion and edu­ca­tion activ­it­ies con­duc­ted by neigh­bor­hood-based fire­fight­ers throughout the city.

Among the 24 fatal­it­ies, 11 oc­curred in prop­er­ties where there were no smoke alarms or where smoke alarms were not func­tion­al. Mean­while, a dis­pro­por­tion­ate num­ber of deaths, 11 (46 per­cent), oc­curred dur­ing the eight-hour peri­od from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.

The 24 fatal­it­ies oc­curred in 23 fires. Two deaths oc­curred in one of the 23 fires. 

Age ap­peared to be a factor in the fire fatal­it­ies. Six people aged 85 and older died in fires, while 10 people between 50 and 64 per­ished in fires. In con­trast, just one child or teen­ager died in a fire, and only six people young­er than 50.

The an­nu­al fire-re­lated in­jury total of 182 was 11 more than the fire de­part­ment re­cor­ded in 2012, but it was 57 few­er than the 10-year high of 239 in 2005. The 10-year in­jury low was 147 in 2007. Among last year’s in­jur­ies, 54 in­volved people in the 30 to 49 age group, while 25 in­volved people in their 20s and 31 in­volved chil­dren or teen­agers. There were 51 in­jur­ies in­volving people in the 50 to 64 age group, as well as 31 in­volving people 65 and older.

Open flame was lis­ted as the cause of 39 fires that res­ul­ted in in­jury, while cook­ing mis­haps caused 38 fires that res­ul­ted in in­jur­ies. Elec­tric­al wir­ing mal­func­tions (32), smoking mis­haps (18), port­able heat­er mis­haps (13) and ar­son (12) were oth­er lead­ing causes of fires that res­ul­ted in in­jur­ies.

The fire de­part­ment re­spon­ded to 44,863 fire emer­gen­cies in 2013, along with 234,156 med­ic­al emer­gen­cies.

As part of the de­part­ment’s year-end re­port, it noted the re­cent ini­ti­ation of a new Pri­or­ity Dis­patch con­tract that “will provide an in­ter­na­tion­ally tested [emer­gency med­ic­al sys­tem] pro­tocol sys­tem for our Fire Com­mu­nic­a­tions Cen­ter to or­gan­ize, stack and bet­ter man­age calls ac­cord­ing to pa­tient needs.” The con­tract provides for new tech­no­logy and soft­ware in the com­mu­nic­a­tions cen­ter.

Mean­while, the Fire De­part­ment ob­tained a $16 mil­lion grant from the Fed­er­al Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency to hire 128 new fire­fight­ers, who were trained in Fire Ca­det Class 188 and Class 189 at the Fire Academy. The de­part­ment fur­ther ob­tained a $2.5 mil­lion As­sist­ance to Fire­fight­ers Grant to fur­ther ad­vance-level train­ing and cer­ti­fic­a­tions for the de­part­ment’s su­per­visors.

Also dur­ing 2013, the de­part­ment cre­ated a new deputy com­mis­sion­er po­s­i­tion to over­see its emer­gency med­ic­al ser­vices. The de­part­ment placed five new fire vehicles in­to ser­vice. They in­cluded Lad­der 29 at 5931 Old York Road, Lad­der 10 at 3742 Kens­ing­ton Ave. and Lad­der 18 at 2201 W. Hunt­ing Park Ave., along with five Chev­ro­let Tahoes as­signed to three bat­talion chiefs and two EMS su­per­visors. ••

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