Cigarettes Leading Cause of NYC Fatal Fires
The surgeon general may want to place a new warning on cigarette packages.
Smoking was the leading cause of fatal fires in New York City, according to FDNY statistics. Seventeen people died from fires started by cigarettes in fiscal year 2006 - tied for first place with electrical fires caused by extension cords.
"If it [smoking] doesn't get you one way, it'll get you another," said Patrick Reynolds, executive director of the Foundation for a Smokefree America. "It's a real danger to the health of the smoker and the health of others."
Smoking-related infernos topped several other categories of fatal fires, including those labeled "intentional," which killed 13 people, as well as those started by matches (12), candles (10) or gas or vapors (7), according to the FDNY's annual report covering July 1, 2005, to June 30, 2006.
Even though cigarettes were the leading cause of fatal fires in fiscal year 2006, the number of such blazes has decreased dramatically over the past decade. In calendar year 1996, 43 people died in fires started by cigarettes.
"We've had downward trend for approximately 10 years now, maybe the lowest ever," Assistant Chief Fire Marshal Robert Byrnes said. "The Fire Department has an aggressive fire-safety education program. Basically, education saves lives here."
In all, 92 civilians died in fires in fiscal year 2006 - one more than the year before but still part of a remarkable decline over the past decade.
For example, in fiscal year 1996, 155 civilians died in fires.
New York City also saw a slight rise in structural fires in fiscal year 2006 to 28,372, increasing from 27,610 the year before.
The department's number of "runs" - which includes medical emergencies, inspections and false alarms - continued to rise in 2006 to 485,328, representing a continual increase over the past five years.
"We've been saying for a long time that the workload for the New York City Fire Department continues to increase, and the department should pay close attention to those numbers," said Uniformed Fire Officers Association President Peter Gorman.
But despite the increased activity, average response times remained relatively steady in 2006, at four minutes and 32 seconds, only increasing by one second from the year before.
In another piece of good news, "malicious" false alarms also continued to make a historic decline and dropped to an all-time low of 30,002. That shatters the previous year's record of 34,730.