BATON ROUGE, La. (KLFY) — At only the midpoint of the year, Louisiana is on track to surpass the number of fatal fires across the state unless something turns around quickly, according to the Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFM).
So far this year, there have been 38 deaths across the state, compared to only 34 at this time in 2020, according to State Fire Marshal H. “Butch” Browning.
“At the start of the year, we were seeing a concerning trend with fire fatalities, though just one loss of life is always one too many,” said Browning. “After a call to action to the public, those tragedies, thankfully, became less frequent. But now that we’ve hit the midway point of the year, I want to renew that call to action in hopes of preventing a continued elevated count of fire deaths in the latter part of the year.”
Browning said the causes of this year’s fatal fires have been across the board from unattended cooking and unsafe smoking practices to various electrical issues stemming from improper electrical wiring. Though the number of fire deaths is up slightly, the number of requests to the SFM to conduct fire investigations is down, as is the number of fires determined to be intentionally set.
“The first line of defense against fire is prevention,” said Browning. “Prevention starts with awareness. I’m asking all Louisiana families to be aware of the fire hazards currently in your home and address them sooner rather than later. I’m also hoping the fire safety tips we have to offer help families keep fire hazards from developing in their homes.”
Browning shared several tips from some of the most prominent sources of fatal fires.
- Stay in the kitchen when you are cooking anything on the stove
- Avoid cooking when you’re tired or impaired.
- Make sure your cooking space is free of clutter and combustible materials.
- Ensure children are at least three feet away from an active stove, sharp objects and hot foods and/or liquids.
- Keep a lid close by in the event a small, stovetop fire occurs that can be smothered by placing the lid over it and turning off the heat.
- If a large cooking fire occurs, get yourself and any other occupants out of the home immediately and call 911 for help.
- It’s always best to smoke outdoors.
- Ensure all smoking materials are properly extinguished in the appropriate manner and keep all spark-producing objects, like lighters, out of the reach of children.
- Refrain from smoking when tired or under the influence of alcohol or medications that make you drowsy.
- Avoid connecting extension cords and power strips to create power sources where a wall outlet does not exist
- Don’t overload cords and strips if using them for temporary purposes.
- Plug all appliances directly into wall outlets to prevent overheating of wires.
- If your home is experiencing electrical issues, have a licensed electrician evaluate the situation and make any needed repairs.
Browning said many of these cases involved homes with no working smoke alarms or sprinkler systems. Smoke alarms are a proven tool to alert residents to a fire danger in order to escape safely while home fire sprinklers can immediately limit the threat to life and damage to property.
The SFM’s Operation Save-A-Life partners with local fire departments to install smoke alarms for free for families that need them most. To learn more about Operation Save-A-Life, or to register for a smoke alarm installation, visit lasfm.org.