Residential Fire Deaths Are Up In NC

Jun 26, 2018

File photo of a fire in downtown Raleigh in March 2017.
Credit Jason deBruyn / WUNC

Deaths due to residential fires are up in North Carolina, in part a consequence of a new reporting system.

Local fire departments must now report fatalities to the Office of the State Fire Marshal within 48 hours of a deadly blaze. In years past, data were collected by the U.S. Fire Administration.

"It is an alarming rate," said Brian Taylor, Chief State Fire Marshal. "We're at 91 fire deaths for the year where we had recorded only 83 all of last year. And I say 'only,' one death is one too many."

Taylor said this year's numbers put North Carolina in the top 10 nationwide.

But the new reporting practice is not the only reason for the jump, Taylor said.

"A lot of that has to do with the cold snap we had in January, February," Taylor explained. "Misuse of heating, space heaters and things of that nature, because we had 30 deaths in January alone."

Taylor said more accurate reporting will help state officials plan effective prevention programs and secure funding to pay for them.

"So we can determine what course of action we need to take as a state agency to educate our legislators on what our fire problem is and what we need to do to correct that or deter it in the future," he said.