Cumberland Times-News

January 19, 2013

Fire deaths at record low in Md. in 2012

Five fatalities have occurred this year

From Staff Reports
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — Preliminary data concerning the number of fatal fires investigated by or reported to the Office of the State Fire Marshal indicates 52 Marylanders succumbed to injuries related to fires in 2012.

This represents a 22 percent decrease in fire-related deaths as compared to 67 deaths in 2011 and is 13 percent below the previous record low of 60 fire deaths recorded in 2006 and 2008. The preliminary data does not include fire victims who are currently receiving medical care for potentially life-threatening injuries.  

For several years, the annual average number of fire deaths in Maryland has continued on a downward trend.  

The annual average number of fire deaths recorded during the past 20 years was 77; the 10-year average was 71; and during the past five years the annual average has fallen to 65.  

The highest number of fire deaths recorded in a single year over the past 30 years was in 1988 when 129 victims succumbed to the effects of fire.

Unfortunately, Maryland has already experienced five fire deaths in the first few days of 2013. “This sad news reminds all of us that we must always remain vigilant and practice fire safety every day,” said a spokesman for the fire marshal’s office.  

One of the significant factors in reducing the number of fire deaths in Maryland was legislation supported and signed into law by Gov. Martin O’Malley requiring only fire safety-compliant cigarettes to be sold in Maryland. The number of fire deaths with the known fire cause directly related to smoking materials has fallen consistently from 18 in 2009, to 12 in 2010, to nine in 2011, and three in 2012.

The installation of residential fire sprinklers is another factor in the reduction of fire deaths.

For more than 20 years, all newly constructed multifamily dwellings have been equipped with life-saving fire sprinklers, and they have been required in all newly constructed townhomes since 1992.

Local initiatives requiring fire sprinklers in newly constructed one- and two-family homes across Maryland were bolstered by O’Malley’s signing of House Bill 366 and Senate Bill 602 on May 2.  

This legislation, when fully implemented, will mandate the installation of residential fire sprinklers in every newly constructed single-family home in Maryland with few exceptions. Currently, 14 Maryland counties, Baltimore City and numerous municipalities have proactively adopted fire sprinkler requirements.

These fast-acting devices directly spraying water onto open flame during the early stages of a fire, thus allowing additional time to escape the effects of hostile fire.

Finally, the state fire marshal applauds the fire prevention efforts of Maryland’s fire service in constantly promoting life-saving information to the public.

To survive a home fire, the state fire marshal recommends the following:

• Working smoke alarms should be located on every level of the home, in each sleeping area and in each sleeping room.

• Test smoke alarms monthly.

• Develop a home escape plan with a safe meeting place outside and practice the plan with all family members at least twice a year.

• If having a new home built, insist that fire sprinklers be installed if they are not required.