The Baltimore Fire Department is reeling as the city has experienced the most fire deaths in a decade, Chief Niles R. Ford said Wednesday.
Twenty-eight people have died in fires with more than a week left to go in the year — more than half of them in just four incidents, according to the Fire Department.
While the number of victims has increased, the number of fatal fires, 17, is roughly in line with the department’s 10-year average of about 16.8 fatal fires per year, according to a Baltimore Sun review of state fire marshal data.
“You can feel a different mood when you go out there and talk to them,” the chief said, referring to his firefighters. “They were hoping we’d make it past this season and not have any [fatalities], but they know how the cold season is. Heating is a challenge.”
Six of the Malone family’s children died in a blaze that burned down their Springwood Avenue home in Northeast Baltimore on Jan. 12 — more than 20 percent of the city’s fire deaths in one night.
“We have to remember that we started this year off on Springwood with six babies in that fire,” Ford said.
A March 3 fire killed four senior citizens at an assisted-living facility on Lawina Avenue in Northwest Baltimore. Two teenagers died in a firebombing in the 1200 block of Greenmount Avenue on March 18. In the most recent case, a mother and her two young daughters died Dec. 13 in a fire on Cold Spring Lane.
Investigators have determined the most recent fire originated on the second floor and was an electrical fire, Ford said.
Speaking at Mayor Catherine E. Pugh’s weekly news conference at City Hall Wednesday, Ford encouraged residents to call 311 for free installation of 10-year, lithium-battery smoke detectors; to keep any live Christmas trees in their homes well-watered; and to keep any space heaters away from flammable items and plugged directly into wall outlets instead of extension cords.
“Unfortunately, this is our busy season, and we’re trying to encourage people to be safe and be careful,” Ford said.
Fire deaths and fatal fires by year, according to Maryland State Fire Marshal data
2017 (as of Dec. 20): 28 deaths in 17 fires
2016: 16 deaths in 14 fires
2015: 18 deaths in 16 fires
2014: 18 deaths in 14 fires
2013: 21 deaths in 18 fires
2012: 12 deaths in eight fires
2011: 17 deaths in 13 fires
2010: 20 deaths in 10 fires
2009: 26 deaths in 22 fires
2008: 19 deaths in 13 fires
2007: 33 deaths in 23 fires