Updated: 10-12-2004 09:38:29 AM

FDNY: Fire Deaths at 77-Year Low


STEPHANIE GASKELL
Courtesy of New York Post

October 12, 2004 -- The number of people killed in fires this year has dropped by nearly 35 percent to its lowest level in 77 years, FDNY officials said yesterday.

From January to September, 58 people died in fires. During the same period last year, there were 88 deaths.

Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta said the city's fire fatality rate is the lowest it's been since 1927, when 96 people died the entire year. The FDNY could not provide a comparable year-to-date death total for 1927.

"I think the department's doing a great job of getting to fires in a hurry and also doing a great job in educating the public about fire prevention - no careless smoking, no candles unattended, things of that sort," Scoppetta said.

During the month of September, there was one fire fatality - the lowest number in 35 years.

Mayor Bloomberg cautioned New Yorkers to remain vigilant. He also defended his decision to close six firehouses last year.

"In terms of the allocation of resources and the training, you can't sit there with any department and never change," he said.

"We have to constantly be moving our resources around as the population and the needs of this city change. We have to constantly embrace new technologies, new training. We have to make sure that our workforce is open to everybody so that we can get new ideas coming in."

In September, the Department of Homeland Security gave the FDNY a $676,000 grant to pay for fire safety and prevention outreach programs in high-risk neighborhoods.

Scoppetta said of the 58 deaths this year, nearly a third of them were caused by careless smoking.

The FDNY recommends that New Yorkers have working smoke detectors, especially in the kitchen and bedrooms, make sure cigarettes are completely extinguished before throwing them away, have a 1-foot safety zone around candles, and create a fire escape plan.

Bloomberg said that while the Fire Department is doing a good job, there's something else at play.

"God seems to be smiling on us," he said.

October is National Fire Prevention Month.

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