State Fire Marshal addresses "alarming" number of fire deaths - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

State Fire Marshal addresses "alarming" number of fire deaths

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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

The numbers are staggering- Alabama has recorded 50 fire deaths in just the first three months of the year. Last year, there were 81 over the course of the entire year. The state's top fire official is extremely concerned.

State Fire Marshal Ed Paulk says he is very alarmed by the number of fire fatalities so far in 2014. According to him, just two states have more fire deaths this year. New York with 68 and Texas with 54, two states that have a considerably higher population than Alabama.

"Of course, one fire death is one too many. But this is at a record-setting pace and it's not a record that we're proud of. It's certainly not a record that we try to reach," he said.

The death toll crept to 50 this week.

Linda Woodfin, 73, died Sunday when flames tore through her home in Alexander City's Springhill subdivision. She had spent the night before with family, celebrating her granddaughter's wedding. As smoke and flames filled her house, she was trapped inside and could not escape.

On Thursday, four-year-old Marlena Miland and two-year-old Dexter Miland Jr. died in a Decatur apartment fire. Investigators say the fire started in the bedroom where the children were sleeping. Their mother, father and another child got out of the burning building and their father tried to get through a window to get to Marlena and Dexter but he was unable to rescue them.

"My daughter called me and told me that she couldn't get the grandbabies out, that they were in the house burning," said the children's grandmother, Barbara Crayton.

The deadly blaze remains under investigation.

Then early Thursday morning, firefighters discovered a body inside a burned SUV while responding to a woods fire in Etowah County's Egypt community. Authorities are calling the person's death suspicious.

Paulk says his office has helped investigate a majority of the 50 fire fatalities, around 40 cases. He has met with fire chiefs from across the state to discuss the high rate of deaths as well as increasing fire safety awareness.

"First, we need to realize that our safety is our responsibility. Each person is responsible for their own safety. A lot of these fire deaths is the result of people making improper decisions, many of them using space heaters and not turning them off at night," he told WSFA during an interview at his office in Montgomery Friday. "But we're coming into other seasons. The Easter season is upon us and people utilize candles. That's very dangerous. You should not leave a candle burning in your room."

Paulk urges every family to have a fire safety plan in place.

"Two o'clock in the morning when the fire alarm is going off is not the appropriate time to stop and think, 'What do I do next?' Develop a plan for your family to respond to in the event of an emergency at night, what are going to do, where are you going, where are you going to meet up outside. You have precious little time to get out of a home. Use that time wisely. Do not go back inside for your purse or wallet. We can replace those physical things in life. But we cannot replace a life," he said.

The State Fire Marshal's Office continues to work with fire departments and schools throughout Alabama on fire safety education in an effort to prevent any more tragedies.

"I would just urge people to stop and consider- if it doesn't make common sense, don't do it. It could be a mistake that you never live to regret," Paulk added.

He encourages homeowners to test their smoke alarms to ensure they are working. He recommends smoke detectors be replaced every 10 years.

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