JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – According to the U.S. Fire Administration, Arkansas has a fire death rate of 24.1 deaths per million population. That statistic places the state behind the District of Columbia and Oklahoma with the third highest death rate.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say many residential fire-related deaths remain preventable and continue to pose a significant public health problem. The CDC estimates over one-third of home fire deaths occur in homes without smoke alarms, a good reminder for residents to change batteries and replace dated fixtures.
"The cheapest form of life insurance anybody could have is a working smoke alarm placed in a proper location in the house," said Jason Wills, a fire marshall with the Jonesboro Fire Department (JFD).
He says it's a life insurance policy that comes free for Jonesboro residents. "Anybody that needs a working smoke alarm can call the non-emergency number here at the station. We will not only provide the smoke alarm, but we install it," Wills said.
JFD will also make sure the smoke alarm is placed in the proper location. "So one in each room and one in the hallway that would adjoin it so that, if a person sleeps with their door closed, you've got protection on both sides," he added.
The National SAFE KIDS Campaign (NKSC) says more than half of children, ages five and under, who die from home fires are asleep at the time. That's why Wills stresses placing smoke alarms in the right spot, and advises parents to educate their kids about what to do during a fire.
"If you have at least some planning and education in that regard, it pays big dividends, and it could save your life," Wills said.
In February a fire claimed the lives of a Jonesboro mother and her three children. Wills says investigators determined the blaze started after a burner was left on the stove. NKSC attributes the leading cause of house fires and fire-related injuries to home cooking equipment.
The campaign also notes that fire-related deaths are more likely to occur during cold-weather months. Wills says JFD has worked numerous fires caused by heating equipment and even cases where an elderly person left cooking unattended.
"We recommend, if it's an elderly person, take a spoon or spatula to remind them in case they get distracted that, hey, I've got something on the stove," Wills said. "Little things like that can make a difference to keep a person safe."
Wills also suggests people change out smoke alarm batteries this weekend when they change their clocks for daylight-saving time.