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GRFD: Almost half of the city's fatal fires are smoking related

Over the past 5 years, up to 58% of the fatal fires in Grand Rapids have been attributed to smoking.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — According to a report from the Grand Rapids Fire Department, over the past five years about half of the fire fatalities in the City of Grand Rapids can be attributed to smoking. 

The news comes after a risk reduction assessment was completed as part of the fire department's Fire Prevention Division strategic plan, the city said in a release. 

The Fire Prevention Division staff reviewed the city's 12 fatal fires since 2014. Of the 12, the investigation found that five were attributed directly to smoking and two were possibly related to smoking but could not be proven. This data shows that smoking was the reason for 42 percent of the fire fatalities – and may be higher at 58 percent.  

“Every loss of life is tragic,” GRFD Lt. Bill Smith said. “That’s why our Grand Rapids Fire Department is asking for residents’ help in preventing future incidents that can be avoided.”

The following tips from GRFD were provided in order to reduce the chances of fires from unsafe smoking practices:

Smoke outside
This reduces fire risk within your home. However, outside fires caused by unsafe smoking practices quickly can involve outdoor material and ignite your home. Improperly discarded smoking material has been found to be the cause of many structure fires.  

Never smoke in bed
Mattresses and bedding can catch on fire easily. Plus, you may fall asleep with a lit cigarette. 

Put cigarettes out all the way
Do this every time. Don’t walk away from a lit cigarette or other smoking materials. Put water on ashes and butts to make sure they are out before you put them in the trash. Put your cigarette out in an ashtray or bucket with sand. Use metal, glass or other non-combustible ashtrays with a wide base so they won’t tip over and start a fire. Never discard smoking material into a combustible makeshift ashtray.

Do not smoke after taking medicine that makes you tired
You may not be able to prevent or escape from a fire if you are not alert.

Never smoke around medical oxygen
Cigarettes or open flame devices need to be kept away from oxygen delivery systems. Oxygen-rich air will contribute to the burning process, and fires burn with greater intensity. Oxygen-saturated items such as clothing, fabric, bedding and other combustible material can become readily ignitable fuel sources when subjected to a heat source or open flame. 

Keep smoking materials away from children
Some children are curious about fire. Keep lighters and matches locked up in a high place. Never leave cigarette lighters or matches where children can reach them.

Close before you doze
Sleeping with your bedroom door closed can keep you safe from fire and smoke.

Smoke alarms
Always have the appropriate amount of working smoke alarms in your home, have a fire escape plan and have at least two ways out of your home. 

The city says those who own homes in Grand Rapids are eligible for a free home safety assessment and free smoke alarms. To schedule a safety assessment, call 311 or 616-456-3000. If needed, the fire department will install free smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms throughout the home.


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