published Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

Fire is an ever-present danger

The death Sunday of a Chattanooga man who died after trying to put out a grease fire is a poignant reminder that fires have claimed several lives, seriously injured many others and destroyed or damaged millions of dollars worth of property in the region this year. The costly structural blazes are not directly connected, but they are proof that that fire remains an oft-deadly enemy in contemporary society.

The Sunday death -- from smoke inhalation -- was the eighth in Chattanooga in 2011, a fire department spokesman reported. That's an increase of five over the number recorded last year. The number of fire deaths increased this year despite the tireless efforts of public safety officials. Indeed, fire prevention programs this year were much the same as last, but the number of deaths increased nevertheless.

Officials can do little other than to continue positive efforts to educate the public. They know what causes many if not most fires, but still are unable to stop them. That's especially true when the weather turns cold.

Most cold-weather fires are started by individuals attempting to stay warm. Many are caused by space heaters -- often placed too close to combustible materials -- or sparked by old electrical wiring that is unable to bear the heavy load of a portable device or devices. In both instances, fires can erupt.

There's no quick remedy for those problems, but programs to inform the public about ways to prevent fires continue. Fire prevention education as well as dissemination of information about what to do in case of a fire, whatever its origin, are important. So are continuing campaigns to bring substandard housing up to code and to provide and install smoke detectors to those who can't afford them.

Area fire departments and public safety officials do a fine job of educating the public about the dangers of fire. When a blaze does occur, professional and volunteer departments here and across the region work to contain them with as little as little loss of life and property as possible. Even so, as Sunday's loss of life attests, fire remains a danger to life and property.

No one wants to become a statistic. Increased caution and acquaintance with fire safety recommendations can reduce the toll that fires can exact.

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