Fewer fire deaths occurred in Philadelphia in 2015 than any calendar year in the city’s recorded history, Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer announced earlier this month.
The 12 fire fatalities reported during the year represented a 63-percent reduction from the 32 deaths in 2014 and was half of the previous record low of 24 in 2013. In addition, the city saw a 31-percent reduction in fire-related injuries, 120 last year vs. 175 in 2014, establishing an all-time low in that category.
Fewer deaths and injuries were recorded despite an increase in the number of fire emergencies. Philadelphia firefighters responded to 50,469 fire calls for the year, a 1.7-percent increase over the 2014 total. Fire Department personnel also responded to 256,891 medical emergencies, which was 5.3 percent more than the previous year.
Sawyer credited the department’s “zero fire fatalities” program for the reductions, including its installation of 10,639 ten-year lithium battery smoke alarms and 45 carbon monoxide alarms into 4,168 homes with the help of the American Red Cross and Red Paws. The Insurance Society of Pennsylvania also contributed to the campaign by donating $81,600 to the Citizens for Fire Prevention Committee following the society’s text to pledge fundraiser. The CFPC collected $109,116 in donations throughout 2015 for the purchase of smoke alarms and other safety materials.
Among the 12 fatalities last year, six occurred in properties that did not have smoke alarms or where smoke alarms were present but not operable. Three occurred in properties where the fire department was unable to determine if working smoke alarms were present.
Citizens may request smoke alarm installation by telephone through the city’s 311 call center. Citizens may also request additional safety information.
Careless smoking was the leading cause of fire fatalities last year with four, followed by open flame (three) and one each for faulty wiring, electrical appliances and sparks or embers. Two people died in fires where the cause was undetermined.
Ten of the 12 victims were age 50 or older. There were no fire deaths involving anyone younger than 30. Among the 120 injured citizens, 16 occurred in fires that were ruled arson, while 12 additional injuries occurred in fires where the cause was undetermined. Ninety-two injuries occurred in accidental fires.
Firefighters responded to 18 multi-alarm fires during 2015, including four that were intentionally set. The cause was undetermined for six multi-alarm fires.
In addition to the 307,360 emergency calls handled by the fire department, its members played key roles in the response to the Amtrak train derailment in Port Richmond last May. During the year, the fire department placed 13 new medic unit vehicles into service, along with two new ladder trucks, six Chevy SUVs, one training trailer and eight Chevy sedans. ••