State Fire Marshal Brian S. Geraci reports fatal fires in December are cause for concern. The month of December experienced the loss of eleven lives resulting from fire related incidents. One adult and two children lost their lives when a plane struck a home in Montgomery County causing an unavoidable deadly house fire. Three adults succumbed to injuries received in three separate home fires in Prince George’s County, with one fire occurring on Christmas Eve and one on Christmas Day. Two adult lives were lost during home fires in Baltimore County. Two additional adult lives were taken during separate fire incidents in Baltimore City, one of which involved a homeless victim in a tent and one adult victim recently died in her dwelling in Howard County during a kitchen fire.
Although four of the fire incidents remain under investigation for the cause; two fires were determined to be the result of unattended cooking, one was the result of an unattended candle and one involved careless discarding of smoking materials. It was also noted that two separate victims called 911 from inside their burning homes and three dwellings had no working smoke alarms inside the structures. A preplanned home escape plan would very likely have proven to be beneficial during most of these incidents.
“An estimated 80% of all structure fires in Maryland occur in what most assumes to be the safest place, our homes,” stated State Fire Marshal Geraci.
To help survive a home fire, the State Fire Marshal recommends the following:
- Working smoke alarms should be located on every level of the home and in each sleeping area.
- Test smoke alarms monthly and replace the batteries at least once a year.
- Develop a home escape plan with a safe meeting place and practice the plan with all family members. It is extremely important to, “Get Out and Stay Out” of a working fire, never return inside for anything.
- Call 911 from outside of the home to avoid fast building toxic gases and carbon monoxide exposure.
- Smoke alarms combined with a residential fire sprinkler system increase surviving a fire by over 97%.
A new Maryland law became effective on July 1, 2013 involving “battery only” smoke alarms used in residential properties. When “battery only” smoke alarms have reached their 10-year life span, they need to be replaced with new long-life sealed lithium battery smoke alarms with silence/hush button features. The silence/hush button feature temporarily disables the alarm so the occupant can ventilate the space from mild smoke conditions typically created during some cooking operations. The use of these alarms eliminates the need to replace the batteries during the 10 year life of the alarm.
If your property is protected with 120 volt electric smoke alarms, they should be replaced every 10 years with new 120 volt electric smoke alarms w/ battery back-up to ensure proper and timely operation in the event of a fire.
Local initiatives across Maryland now mandate the installation of residential fire sprinklers in every newly constructed single-family home. Currently 12 Maryland counties, Baltimore City and numerous municipalities have adopted these requirements. Residential fire sprinklers react independently as the fire begins to advance. In most cases, only one fire sprinkler activates and contains the fire to the area of origin. This allows occupants more time to escape the effects of fire and protects the remainder of the dwelling from the ravages of uncontrolled fire. Additionally, all townhomes built in Maryland since 1992 require residential fire sprinklers, and to date, no fire fatalities have occurred in any of these protected homes.