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Fire deaths decreasing in state

Fire deaths have decreased 60 percent in Washington state, from 71 deaths in 2002 to 43 fire deaths in 2003, according to information released last week by Chief Lowell Porter of the Washington State Patrol.

State Fire Marshal Mary Corso added, "These 43 fire deaths equate to 6.1 fire deaths per million people in Washington state. This is significantly less than the 2002 national rate of 12.1 fire death per million as reported by the National Fire Protection Association."

Most of these deaths (65 percent) occurred where people feel safest, in their homes. In those 15 homes where a smoke detector was present, nearly one fourth were inoperable. No alarm was present in 37 percent of the homes where fire fatalities occurred.

"Install a smoke alarm in your home and check it monthly to ensure it is working," Corso said. "Early warning of fire can double the chance of escape. Smoke alarms save lives. In addition, plan and practice a fire drill at least once a year."

The leading cause of 2003 fire deaths was smoking. "If you smoke, use large deep ashtrays and check furniture for smoldering cigarettes before going to bed," Corso said. "And never smoke in bed."

The Washington State Association of Fire Marshals reminds everyone that most fire deaths can be prevented by following these safety practices:

€ Remember to install smoke alarms on each level of a home and near each sleeping area.

€ Check batteries monthly, and replace batteries annually.

€ Make and practice a home fire escape plan.

For more information on fire safety and statistics, citizens are urged to contact their local fire department or the Office of the State Fire Marshal (360-753-0400).

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