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Michigan ties Alabama for most fire deaths

Posted: 7:51 AM, Feb 12, 2016
Updated: 2016-02-12 07:51:01-05

The number of people dying in fires has fallen nationally. There were 20 percent fewer deaths in 2011 than in 2002.

But Michigan hasn't seen the same trend.

"Over the past three years, fire fatalities in Michigan have dramatically increased," Delta Township Fire Inspector Michael Roberts said.

Up from about 80 in 2013 to more than 100 last year.

"That is a tragedy and something we really need to fix," Roberts said.

He says a big part of saving lives is prevention. Safe smoking habits, not leaving cooking unattended, and keeping space heaters away from things that can catch fire all help, Roberts says.

"Those are the number one causes of fire fatalities, but again, over everything, make sure you have a working smoke alarm," Roberts said.

A Lansing firefighter says that's especially important because homes are more flammable now than they used to be. The lightweight wood used in construction now can take less heat, and burning plastic in homes makes the smoke from fire more dangerous.

Delta Township Fire Chief John Clark says one reason Michigan is consistently near the top of the list for fire fatalities is poorer communities tend not to practice fire safety as well.

"It can drive lack of smoke detectors, it can drive lack of other fire protection systems. It can drive that," Clark said.

Another problem, sometimes nearby departments called to the same fire don't communicate well because they use different terms or radio frequencies. Delta Township and other local departments are working on training together to overcome that.