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Every occupation brings degrees of safety risk. At the fire scene, on the way to or from a fire, or while training, firefighters face the chance of suffering an injury and possibly death. Each year, tens of thousands of firefighters are injured while fighting fires, rescuing people, responding to emergency medical and hazardous material incidents, or training for their jobs.

Annually, from 2015 to 2017, there were an estimated 63,000 firefighter injuries resulting from all types of firedepartment duties.1,2 Of these injuries, 25,975 occurred on the fireground or were considered to be fire related (includes structure fires, vehicle fires, outside fires, etc.). An additional 4,525 injuries occurred while responding to or returning from an incident, which includes, but is not limited to, fires.3,4,5 While the majority of injuries are minor, a significant number are debilitating and career ending. These injuries exact a great toll on the fire service.

From the need to adjust staffing levels and rotations to accommodate injuries to the focus of the fire service on injury prevention, injuries and their prevention are a primary concern. In addition, the fire service has done much to improve firefighter safety. Firefighter health and safety initiatives, incident command structure, training, and protective gear are but a few areas where time, energy and resources have been well spent. Nonetheless, firefighting by its very nature is a hazardous profession. Injuries can and do occur.

This topical report addresses the details of firefighter injuries sustained at, responding to or returning from a fire incident, focusing on data as reported to the NFIRS from 2015 to 2017, the most recent data available at thetime of the analysis.6,7

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Objective This study proposes and evaluates the theory that people who are susceptible to injury in residential fires are not susceptible to death in residential fires and vice versa. It is proposed that the population vulnerable to death in residential fires can be proxied by ‘frailty’, which is measured as age–gender adjusted fatality rates due to natural causes.

Methods This study uses an ecological approach and controls for exposure to estimate the vulnerability of different population groups to death and injury in residential fires. It allows fatalities and injuries to be estimated by different models.

Results Frailty explains fire-related death in adults while not explaining injuries, which is consistent with the idea that deaths and injuries affect disjoint populations.

Conclusions Deaths and injuries in fire are drawn from different populations. People who are susceptible to dying in fires are unlikely to be injured in fires, and the people who are susceptible to injury are unlikely to die in fires.

Between 2009 and 2013, 2470 people per year lost their lives in home structure fires (‘home fires’), and an additional 13 300 were injured, on average.4 Home fires represented 27% of all reported fires, yet constituted 84% and 77% of all fire fatalities and injuries, respectively. In an analysis of home fires (2009–2013) based on national fire statistics, cooking equipment is cited as the most common cause of home fires (45%), followed by heating equipment (16%), intentional (8%), electrical distribution or lighting equipment (8%) and smoking materials (5%).5 Causes of deaths from residential fires follow a different pattern. Smoking materials are shown to be the leading cause of civilian fire deaths (23%), followed by heating equipment (19%), cooking equipment (17%), electrical distribution or lighting equipment (15%) and intentional (14%). The leading area of fire origin that resulted in an injury is shown to also be the most common area of fire origin (kitchen or cooking area), but the leading area of fire origin that resulted in a death differed (living room, family room or den).

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Finnish company Innohome report on its award-winning third generation Stove Guard, a device that works out when the temperature of cooking is too high and potentially hazardous and turns off the source of ignition. It is nothing new to the Fire and Rescue Service that kitchen fires are number one in the list of fires in the home. 

A quick search on Twitter will reveal lurid pictures of burnt out kitchens serving as warnings to those in search of a late-night snack after an evening in the pub. And it is true the numbers have gone down over the years, with fires from cooking appliances showing an almost continuous fall of around 43 per cent from a peak of 32,000 in 2000/1. However, people still get injured and the fire and smoke damage to property has a real impact on people’s lives. 

One way around this is to look at better control of the source of ignition: the heat. If there was a way of cutting off the source of ignition when it hit a certain temperature and it did not involve human intervention, maybe that could reduce the number of cooking appliance fires.

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What if you had a way of reducing cooktop fires from 138 in a year to zero? Does that sound unrealistic to you? For any reasonable person who has spent years in the prevention field, it may indeed sound like fantasy. Except it really happened.

The Worcester (MA) Fire Department has been working on a prevention project for some years now, led by Lieutenant Annie Pickett. They have been working with the Worcester Housing Authority (WHA) since learning that 759 apartments in four buildings were generating about 12 stovetop fires per month, which caused about $223,000 in direct property damage in 2015.

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For the past five years, the Mississauga, Ont.-based manufacturer has been producing fire-safety products, including a gadget called Safe-T-element that automatically turns off an unattended stove-top…

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Over the years, manufacturers have developed a variety of approaches designed to mitigate cooking fires. Some devices use motion detectors to check for a cook’s presence at the stove and can shut off the burner…

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