Michigan fire deaths up 144% in January

Michigan recorded an increase in fire-related deaths in January, according to a press release from the Michigan Office of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

The statement said that when the Michigan Bureau of Fire Services compared data from January and several days in February for 2021 and 2022, it reported that fire-related deaths in the state increased by 144%.

The office recorded 18 fires that killed 22 people. Each of these fire deaths was accidental and preventable.

Last year, 67% of Michigan’s 107 fire deaths were among adults over 40. Many of these residential fires happened in the evening, with the majority starting in the living room (33%) or in a bedroom (21%).

The top three causes of fatal fires in 2021 were:

• Smoking (39%);

• Heating appliances such as space heaters, wood stoves and fireplaces (23%); and

• Kitchen (11%).

Michigan Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer said in the press release that “if I could send one message to everyone in Michigan, it would be to get out and stay out as quickly as possible if a fire breaks out. in your house”.

“It’s important to talk about fire safety with our parents, grandparents, friends and neighbors, and help them prepare their homes to be safer,” Sehlmeyer said. “You can start by making sure they have working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in their house. Help develop a fire escape plan that takes into account any mobility issues they may have and practice the plan with them. If they smoke or heaters are used, be sure to discuss fire safety tips and that fire safety practices are used. These basic, common sense steps will increase their ability to escape and survive a fire.

The following talking points can also facilitate a fire safety discussion with parents, grandparents, friends and neighbours.

Did you know:

• Working smoke detectors can reduce the risk of dying in a home fire by up to 60%;

• Last year, an average of 1,700 home fires involved space heaters, resulting in 80 deaths and 160 injuries, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. They are mainly caused when a heater, usually electric, is placed too close to curtains, bedding or upholstered furniture that has caught fire.


Michigan residents are encouraged to follow these tips from the National Fire Protection Association to increase their ability to survive or prevent a fire:

• Clear snow from all exterior doors so you can get out quickly in an emergency.

• Make sure the house has several smoke alarms, including smoke alarms in each bedroom and one on each floor of the house. Many newer smoke alarms can interconnect smoke alarms so that when one sounds, all smoke alarms sound.

• Install carbon monoxide detectors on every floor of the house to warn you of high levels of carbon monoxide.

• For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, consider installing smoke alarms that use a flashing light or bed vibrating device to alert them to a fire emergency.

• Ensure that each smoke detector is tested monthly and replace 9-volt batteries in smoke detectors at least once a year.

• Never remove or disable smoke alarms.

• Close bedroom doors when sleeping to isolate yourself from fire, heat and toxic fumes.

• Make sure children and elderly people in the household are familiar with the sound of the smoke alarm.

• Have a fire escape plan that the whole family has practiced that includes two exits from each room and a meeting place outside the house.

• Make sure you practice and can open and exit windows and doors.

• Dial 9-1-1 after leaving the house if smoke or carbon monoxide alarms sound.

• Never use the stove or oven as a source of heat for the house. The oven is not only a potential fire hazard, but it can also become a source of high levels of carbon monoxide.


• Smoking outside. Many things around the house can catch fire if they touch something hot like a cigarette or ashes. It is always safer to smoke outside.

• Never smoke in bed. Mattresses and bedding can easily catch fire. Don’t smoke in bed because you might fall asleep with a lit cigarette.

• Put out the cigarettes completely; do this every time. Stay away from lit cigarettes and other smoking items.

• Put water on ashes and cigarette butts to make sure they are completely extinguished before throwing them away.

• Extinguish cigarettes in an ashtray or bucket with sand.

• Use ashtrays with wide bases so they don’t tip over and start a fire.

• Do not smoke after taking medications that make a person tired. One may not be able to prevent or escape a fire if he is not vigilant.

• Never smoke near medical oxygen. Medical oxygen can explode if a flame or spark is nearby. Even if the oxygen is cut off, it can still catch fire.


• Place the heater on a hard, flat, non-flammable surface. These devices are intended to be placed on the floor and not on a table.

• Heaters should be plugged directly into an electrical outlet.

• Do not plug another electrical appliance or extension cord into the same outlet as a heater – this may cause overheating.

• Never use an extension cord with a space heater.

• Make sure the heater has an automatic shut-off switch.

• Keep children and pets one meter away from space heaters.

• Turn off heaters when you leave a room or go to bed.

• Keep furniture, blankets and other household items at least three feet from a heater.


• Carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions or have a wood stove installed by a professional. All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside to prevent carbon monoxide buildup inside the home.

• Clean chimneys do not catch fire. Make sure a professional chimney sweep inspects the solid fuel venting system every year, sweeping it out and repairing it whenever necessary.

• Keep a glass or metal screen in front of fireplaces to prevent embers or sparks from escaping.

• Extinguish the fire before going to bed or leaving the house.

• Put the ashes in a metal container with a lid, outside and at least 3 feet from the house.

• If you smell natural gas or propane near the gas furnace or heater, do not attempt to light the appliance. Leave the house immediately, then call 911 and have the fire department and/or gas company respond to the house.

• If you are using a space heater that requires kerosene or propane, always use the correct fuel specified by the manufacturer and take the heater outside the home to refuel or change tanks.

• Keep household furniture, blankets and other objects at least 3 feet away from fireplaces and wood stoves.

MI Prevention strongly encourages Michigan residents, especially caregivers, to watch the following fire safety video to better help their loved ones increase their chances of surviving a home fire: https://youtu.be/hj– dLojQag.

If you need smoke alarms and are in financial difficulty, please contact the Michigan Bureau of Fire Services at 517-241-8847. For more information on fire safety, please visit the MI Prevention website at MIPrevention.org

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