Statewide fire fatalities expected to be highest since 1993

Monday, January 1, 2018

Spencer avoids any fatalities, officials encourage further fire prevention

Fatalities in Iowa due to fires in 2017 are expected to reach the highest total since 1993, according to State Fire Marshal Dan Wood. The city of Spencer has avoided any fatalities, but both local and state officials encourage Iowans to be proactive in keeping themselves safe.

“We are fairly confident we’re going to have 53 (fatalities due to fire) at this point,” Wood said. “We haven’t had 53 since 1993. ... Our arsons have doubled from what they (are) normally, (it’s) not a good year for fires.”

Wood said that there hasn’t been a specific trend he’s noticed behind the high numbers.

“It hasn’t been one thing we’ve been able to put our finger on, it’s just they seemed instead of ones and twos, (fatalities have) come in groups of threes and four,” Wood said. “Ones and twos are not good, but groups that size aren’t good either, that’s obviously much worse.”

Spencer Fire Chief John Conyn said that due to his early tenure he was unable to compare 2017 to other years for a total number of fires in the area, but said that fire prevention and education in the area has been helpful.

“After being here only a year and a half, I can’t speak on what an average would be, I think one fire is one too many, I don’t want to see anyone hurt or harmed,” Conyn said. “(We’ve been) very successful in our (fire prevention) campaign, a lot stems from our firefighters reaching out during the fall fire prevention week and visiting all the schools, educating the public as much as we can.”

As a safety measure, both Wood and Conyn emphasized the importance of owning working smoke detectors.

“My biggest thing would be to buy your house a smoke detector ... that’s the fastest way to help mitigate a situation,” Conyn said. “... Working smoke detectors are worth the price of a house, worth the price of a life, a working smoke detector can make such a difference.”

“Smoke detectors are huge,” Wood added.

As the state sinks deeper into the chilly winter months the two encouraged those utilizing space heaters to use them safely.

“People really need to be careful with their heating, especially space heaters,” Wood said. “(Maintain) extra room around their space heaters and make sure they’re not overheating ... be careful during this cold snap also.”

“... Give plenty of space, do not stack it on something that is rocky, put it flat on the ground ... on a place where there is no trash or debris around,” Conyn said.

Conyn said communities can be proactive and make an impact should a fire occur, by “adopting” a neighborhood fire hydrant.

“... Please adopt a fire hydrant in your area — make sure it’s cleaned and (has) 3 feet (of space) around in a circle,” Conyn said. “It helps you, the neighbors, the neighbor down the block, it’s one less thing a fire fighter has to do if there is an unfortunate fire.”

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