fort-dodge-fireAt least 32 people died in structure fires in Iowa this year. Ron Humphrey, with the State Fire Marshal’s office, says many of those lives may’ve been saved if some the homes would’ve had a working smoke detector.

“I would say probably about 30-percent of the fires we had this year had either no smoke detectors present or the smoke detector wasn’t working for some reason,” Humphrey said. The number of fire fatalities in Iowa dropped from last year’s tally of 42, but was up from the 26 fire-related deaths in 2013.

One of the biggest fire tragedies of 2015 occurred early in the year in Fort Dodge. The blaze on February 22 claimed the lives of a 25-year-old woman, her 6-month old son, and a 5-year-old boy.

The home did have a working smoke detector, but the victims were trapped in a second floor bedroom. The exact cause of the fire was never determined. “It was officially listed as undetermined. We had it narrowed down to three or four possibilities, but we just couldn’t lock it down,” Humphrey said. “It was not intentional…it was some kind of accidental cause, but since we couldn’t narrow it down to one, we listed it as undetermined.”

Many of the fatal fires this year happened when the victims were sleeping. Humphrey says that’s why it’s important to develop and practice plans to escape a fire in your home. “Have your evacuation plans and know how to get out of your house,” Humphrey said. “That’s what we see a lot in the fire deaths of people — they either get trapped or they’re sleeping…and if they don’t have smoke detectors, by the time they’re woken by the fire or the smoke, it’s too late and they can’t find their way out of the structure.”