COLUMBUS (AP) — Fires killed 15 children in Ohio last year and have claimed at least 11 young lives in just the first two months of 2015, according to the state fire marshal’s office.
Many factors affect those statistics, but the chief of the state Bureau of Fire Prevention notes that age is among them. Some children may be too young to escape on their own, Chief Frank Conway said.
“Younger children are more at risk for fire deaths simply because of their age,” he said. Toddlers, for example, “may not understand about the smoke alarm, may not understand about crawling low and getting out. When they’re afraid, they want to go to mom and dad.”
Another important element is the season. During frigid weather, heat sources including wood-burning stoves and kerosene heaters can be fire hazards if they’re not used and maintained properly, Conway said.
Since early November, at least 20 children have died in fires in Ohio.
Those deaths include a 10-year-old girl and 9-year-old boy whose Preble County home in western Ohio was destroyed in a blaze early Saturday. Firefighters didn’t learn until after they arrived that Malea and Malachi Bradburn were unaccounted for, and the responders couldn’t enter the house because the floor was gone and the roof was collapsing. The children’s remains were found in the basement.
Last month, an infant was found dead after a house fire in Dayton, and three young siblings died when a dropped kerosene heater ignited a blaze in a trailer home just outside Brilliant, an Ohio River village in rural Jefferson County.
Ohio has 40 total fire deaths so far in 2015, and the causes of many of those remain under investigation. Eleven victims were younger than 18, and age information for two victims hasn’t been confirmed to the fire marshal’s office, spokeswoman Lindsey Burnworth said.
To help protect children from fire risks, Conway recommends that families ensure they have working smoke detectors that are less than a decade old; develop and practice an escape plan that includes a designated meeting place away from the home; and make sure that all family members understand not to re-enter a burning structure once they have exited to safety.