Fire officials say fatality number unusually high this year - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Fire officials say fatality number unusually high this year

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Fire officials want to remind the public of basic safety measures to help prevent further fatalities. Fire officials want to remind the public of basic safety measures to help prevent further fatalities.

The death of a Muscle Shoals man Thursday night marked the 24th fire fatality of 2014 in Alabama, according to the state fire marshal. He said that is an unusually high number of fatalities to happen in such a short time.

House fires are more common during the winter months due to dry, windy conditions and the use of alternative heating sources such as space heaters and baseboard heaters. That is proving to be true this winter, comparing the 24 deaths this year to a total of 71 fire deaths in all of 2013 and 78 in 2012.

At least four of the fatal fires this month happened in North Alabama. In addition to Thursday's fatal fire in Muscle Shoals, a man was killed in a mobile home fire in Monrovia at the beginning of January. Another man died in a fire in Franklin County in the middle of the month. Last week a man was killed in a house fire in Owens Cross Roads.

Fire officials said children under the age of nine are at the greatest risk for being killed in a fire because they don't know what to do, but adults are just as much at risk.

"A lot of times, house fires are at night when people are sleeping. If people don't have an active smoke alarm in their house, all of the smoke and toxins and carbon monoxide will get in your system. Basically, you stay asleep, you never wake up," said Captain Frank McKenzie of Huntsville Fire & Rescue.

Firefighters said it is important to install several smoke and carbon monoxide detectors around the house and to have an escape plan. For the benefit of young children, draw out the plan and post it somewhere they are likely to see it, such as a fridge. Designate two escape routes and an outdoor meeting place.

Space heaters need to be kept at a safe distance from all other items because they are high-wattage appliances that can easily ignite nearby objects and cause a major fire. As a general rule, the buffer zone between your space or baseboard heater and other items should be at least three feet. Never place anything on or nearby these heaters, including furniture.

Fire officials also advise to not cover up space heater cords because they can become hot and catch fire. Avoid using extension cords to plug in heaters. Never leave them unattended or powered on while you sleep.

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