By Jingyi Li ’19
There have been 37 reported home fire fatalities in December of 2017 in just New York City alone. These numerous fatalities were largely due to the failure of basic house equipment. A single fire, if not treated immediately, has potential to spread rapidly. A house or an apartment fire could lead to many deaths and severe injuries that would amount to double figures.
As stated in a news conference, Daniel Nigro, FDNY Commissioner, explained that the cause of the fire was a little boy who was playing with the knobs on the stove top, which ignited sparks from the stove and eventually sparked flames through the kitchen of the boy’s apartment.
Many residents opened windows in order to escape, but the opened windows provided more oxygen, which added to the spread of the fire. The deadly apartment fire in the Bronx resulted in 12 deaths and 6 injuries.
According to a National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) report, cooking equipment accounts for 47% of home structure fires and 20% of home structure injuries.
Fires in the winter are extremely dangerous because of the harsh weather conditions. There are heavy winds with low temperatures and frequent snows falls which can interfere with a firefighter’s job to rescue the victims and contain the fire.
As reported in the New York Times article “In Deadly Bronx Blaze, Responders Battled Fire, and Ice,” Lieutenant Mickey Conboy said, “slipping on the water in the street everything slows down because of the cold.”
Due to the cold weather, many people are resorting to alternative methods in order to
keep their homes warm, which can lead to disastrous results. Space heaters are a great way to warm up a home, but if placed near flammable items or left on throughout the night, it could lead to a home fire.
According to an NFPA report, space heaters account for 43% of home heating fires and 85% of home heating fire deaths. The American Red Cross suggests that you should keep space heaters at least three feet from any objects. In addition, the winter months include holidays like Christmas, New Years, and Hanukkah, which have festivities that, involve numerous decorations such as Christmas lights and candles. During Hanukkah, there is a menorah that Jewish people have to light every night, fueled by candle wax or oil, which is especially dangerous if left unattended.
According to an NFPA report, 11% of home candle fires were a result of people falling asleep and forgetting about the candles. There is 12% of home candle fires that happened in December compared to 4% the rest of the year.
A family during the sixth night of Hanukkah was using an oil-burning menorah that cracked, which ended up spilling oil and it spread flames throughout the house. The mother and three children died during the fire, but the father helped his two children escape to safety. The three survivors sustained major injuries and taken to the hospital.
After many fires that occurred in New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “During the holiday season, we all need to be cautious with decorations, electric lights, candles and space heaters.”
There are countless ways to prevent the risk of home fires throughout the year. The first step everyone should take is as simple as installing a smoke detector. According to an NFPA report, there are 1.18 deaths per 100 reported fires in homes without a smoke
alarm when compared to 0.53 deaths per 100 reported fires in homes with a smoke alarm.
When lighting candles in your homes, make sure the candles are set on a spacious surface and are not interfering with any flammable objects. Most importantly, always remember to extinguish candles when you leave a room. When you use a stove top
as your primary source of heat you are exposing yourself to in-
creased exposure to carbon monoxide. Since carbon monoxide can be emitted from combustion appliances when you subject yourself to prolonged high levels
of carbon monoxide it can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “at moderate levels, it causes headaches, dizziness, nausea, and fainting-and at high levels it can be fatal.”
The EPA suggests people have their gas pipes, stovetops, and ovens inspected annually by a professional.
There were 2295 civilian home fire fatalities in the U.S. reported by the news media in 2017. You can easily reduce the number of home fire fatalities with a simple act of just installing a smoke alarm in your homes. Smoke alarms save lives and yours could be saved too.