Trending Topics

N.H. fire marshal sees ‘disturbing’ rise in fatal fires

State Fire Marshal Sean P. Toomey said more people have died in fires this year than in all of 2023

By David Pierce
The New Hampshire Union Leader

CONCORD, N.H. — More people have already died in New Hampshire fires this year than in all of 2023, raising concerns about smoke alarms and basic residential fire safety.

So far this year, 13 people have died in 11 fires, with nine of the deaths coming in homes that did not have working smoke alarms or an adequate number of working smoke alarms, according to a report by the State Fire Marshal.

Nine of the victims died from smoke inhalation.

“In 2024, we are seeing a disturbing rise in fatal fire incidents,” said State Fire Marshal Sean P. Toomey. “Having working smoke alarms in your home is absolutely critical. They provide early detection and give you and your family precious moments to escape in the event of a fire.”

Trending
Former Buffalo Township Volunteer Fire Company chief Corey Comperatore “died a hero” when he “dove on his family to protect them,” Gov. Josh Shapiro said
Prison reform is one reason why firefighter numbers have declined and why conservation camp sizes have shrunk
Two Steubenville firefighters, who were at the Trump rally, said they helped people who appeared injured and heard bullets hitting broadcast speakers
ARP funding has allowed Lowell officials to purchase new fire apparatus and equipment

Last year, the state had 11 deadly fires and 12 deaths. On Monday, the exact midpoint of 2024, the number of deadly fires already had surpassed 2023 as well as 2022, when nine people died in eight fatal fires.

Nashua has had two deadly fires this year, with one each in Manchester, Concord, Dover, Goffstown, Derry, Litchfield, Gilford, Littleton and Charlestown. April was by far the worst month for fatal fires with five deaths, including three within three days, April 25-27.

Although the number of fires in Manchester is on par with most years, firefighters frequently find insufficient smoke alarms in buildings they inspect, said Peter Lennon, fire marshal with the Manchester Fire Department.

“If you smell smoke, call 911 right away and get out of your home,” Lennon said. “Any delay can create a significant problem. A fire doubles in size every minute.”

Residents are most at risk during colder months when they start using woodstoves and other heating sources like space heaters, Lennon said.

Everyone should make sure they have working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, or a combination of both, he said.

In case of fire, residents should also close doors behind them when leaving a fire in their homes. That helps compartmentalize the blaze and makes work safer for firefighters, Lennon said.

Although the number of fires is comparable to 2023, the severity is much higher this year than usual, said John Montes, the regional disaster officer overseeing New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont.

The Red Cross has helped victims of more than 50 fires this year and assisted more than 245 people in New Hampshire.

Montes urged fire departments and victims to call the Red Cross even if it’s a small fire.

“A lot of times people only think to call us when they’ve had a fire and need somewhere to stay, but we do more than that,” he said.

The Red Cross offers financial assistance and referrals for mental health and other services. They provide booklets telling people what to do when they have had a fire.

“We replace glasses, dentures and CPAP machines more than anything,” Montes said.

In response to deadly fires, the Red Cross also works closely with fire marshals to identify the next of kin and offer services to the next of kin, even if they are from another state.

Since January, the Northern New England Red Cross has installed more than 500 free smoke alarms in New Hampshire, Montes said. The majority of the people asking for smoke detectors are elderly.

Manchester residents can request a smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector at manchesterfire.jotform.com/230673904818058.

For fire prevention and safety tips from the State Fire Marshal, go to www.firemarshal.dos.nh.gov/prevention-safety.

(c)2024 The New Hampshire Union Leader (Manchester, N.H.)
Visit The New Hampshire Union Leader (Manchester, N.H.) at www.unionleader.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.