Nearly twice as many Iowans have died in fires this year compared to this time one year ago. Jessica Lown, a spokesperson for the Iowa Department of Public Safety, says there’s no clear reason why the numbers have increased so sharply.
"We can’t really pinpoint any one thing," Lown said. "We’re just having an unusually high number of fire fatalities this year and it’s really unfortunate." Fires have claimed the lives of 23 people in Iowa this year and eight of the victims were under the age of 10. There were 30 fire fatalities in the state in 2007. Lown says many lives could’ve been saved if the home or building had a working smoke detector.
"We just beat that drum over and over again, but there’s a reason…the vast majority of these people who died in the home structure fires died in areas where there were no working smoke detectors," Lown said. A national report indicates that most people believe they’ll have plenty of time to escape their home once they realize it’s on fire. Lown says, in reality, they have only a couple minutes – making an escape plan and working smoke detectors critically important.
"Most people believe that they have about 10 minutes to escape a home when a fire begins when in reality, they only have about two minutes," Lown said. Four of the structure fires this year in Iowa have resulted in multiple fatalities. The deadliest fire involved an electrical malfunction in the Floyd County town of Marble Rock. The April 25th blaze killed three children — ages 6, 3, and 1 — in a residence that did not have a smoke detector.