Deadly Charleston fire shows statewide smoke detector problem

Posted on behalf of Stewart Bell, PLLC on Apr 03, 2012 in Personal Injury

Statistics show that West Virginia residents are almost twice as likely to die in a fire as other U.S. residents. Safety advocates believe that the limited use of smoke detectors in the state has something to do with it. It is one thing if a defective product fails, but it is another thing altogether if the product is not used in the first place.

In the country overall, statistics for 2008 show that a dozen out of every million people died in a fire. In West Virginia, however, the rate was 23.7 deaths for every million people. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, the data is the most recent available

State fire officials examined West Virginia fire deaths and reported that approximately 25 percent of the homes involved in 4,360 residential fires during fiscal year 2011 lacked smoke detectors. Elsewhere in the country, more than 9 in 10 homes are equipped with smoke detectors. Federal safety officials also note that older people, the poor, smokers, rural residents, and people living in substandard or manufactured homes all tend to be at greater risk of dying in a fire. West Virginia has a relatively high percentage of residents in each of these categories.

As the use of smoke detectors has increased nationwide, the number of deaths from home fires has been on the decline. Still, one of the worst home fires in Charleston's history took the lives of nine residents on March 24. Authorities say the cause of that fire may never be known, but investigators did determine that there was not one properly functioning smoke detector on the premises.

A total of 51 people died in west virginia home fires between July 1, 2010 and June 30, 2011. In the months since, state officials say 52 people have died in fires.

Source:, "Agency says West Virginians twice as likely to die in fires," Ry Rivard, March 26, 2012

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