Alabama fire officials urge safety after numerous fire deaths - WRBL

Alabama fire officials urge safety after numerous fire deaths

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OPELIKA, Ala. - Alabama fire officials are warning people about an alarming spike in fire related deaths. In the first 21 days of 2014 there have been 19 fire fatalities across the state. The 19 fatalities represent 25% of all of the fire related deaths in Alabama last year. Georgia saw a similar trend at the beginning of last year with a 50% increase in fire deaths in the first month. Fire officials say the misuse of portable space heaters plays a big role in these fire fatalities.

Just last week in Birmingham an 89 year old man was killed in a house fire which authorities believe started with a space heater. And here in Columbus at the beginning of the month a 62 year old woman died in an early morning mobile home fire. Opelika Fire Chief Terry Adkins says they see an increase in heating fires during the months of December, January, and February because of the cold.

"During that time, people's heating systems a lot of times are overtaxed. They put supplementary heat into the house. They use a lot of portable heaters," said Adkins.

But Adkins says misuse of these heaters can cause a lot of damage to a home. He suggests keeping the heater 3 feet away from anything else so that loose items don't catch on fire. Don't use an extension cord when plugging the heater up, and remember to unplug it before you go to bed. Chief Adkins says a smoke detector in a home can reduce the fatality risk by about 50%.

Adkins says 96% of homes have smoke detectors but you need to check them once a month and replace batteries about 1 time a year.

"If the batteries are run down in it or if there's something wrong with the smoke detector, it's not working properly, it's just like not even having one," said Adkins.

Cooking fires are also big around this time of year. Adkins suggests always staying with food as it's cooking on the stove to prevent an unwanted blaze. If you have questions about the appropriate type of heater to use inside your home Adkins suggests contacting your local fire department for help. Wednesday morning 3 people were killed in a house fire in South Georgia. So far this year, there have been 15 fire related deaths across the state of Georgia.

Naomi Keitt

Naomi Keitt focuses on education reporting for WRBL News 3. More>>

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