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FDNY Troubled over Sharp Increase in Civilian Fire Deaths for 2017

February 28, 2018 | Michael Barasch

After a record-setting 2016, when civilian fire deaths were the lowest in 100 years, FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro announced the bad news for 2017: that fire deaths in the city had increased by 25, to a troubling total of 73. According to a post on, “In December alone, there were 26 deaths — the highest number in any month in decades.” Although “serious fires” for 2017 declined by eight percent over the previous year and by 15.5 percent from 2015, it took only three serious fires to claim 21 lives.

The leading causes of these deadly fires are all familiar:

  • Open flames
  • Electrical problems
  • Smoking

According to the National Fire Protection Association, the leading causes of deadly fires are smoking and issues with home heating equipment. Tragically, in 53 percent of fatal fires, the structure had no working smoke alarm. Missing or nonfunctioning smoke alarms are a serious issue on the national level. Here, the NFPA estimates that no smoke alarms are present in about 38 percent of deadly fires, and in 21 percent, smoke alarms are present but do not go off.

Commissioner Nigro lamented “the loss of every life lost due to fire,” and once again emphasized the importance of fire prevention. Although the FDNY has been aggressive in efforts to educate the public, making fire safety presentations to more than 750,000 people annually, and has distributed and/or installed more than 150,000 smoke alarms through its #GetAlarmedNYC program, Commissioner Nigro conceded more must be done: “Several recent tragedies demonstrate our work is far from over and we must do all we can to reach everyone with vital, life-saving knowledge about how to prevent fires and what to do if you’re in a fire situation.”

The good news is that despite a record number of emergencies in 2017 — exceeding the 2016 total by more than 14,000 — FDNY’s “ambulance response times for life-threatening medical emergencies … improved, to 6:44 from 6:51 in 2016.” Overall response time also improved by four seconds for life-threatening incidents.

Barasch & McGarry represents injured firefighters, police, EMTs and civilians in a variety of personal injury cases. Call us today at [ln::phone] or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

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