Dozens of shoes outside the Alabama Fire College show the horror that has unfolded in Alabama since January. Sixty-one pairs of shoes represent sixty-one people killed in house fires this year.
State Fire Marshal Ed Paulk told a crowd gathered outside the college, "Today, we have 61 fire fatalities in the state of Alabama this year. Of the 61, I know that 54 of those were preventable."
The Alabama Fire Chief's Association kicked off the "Turn Your Attention to Fire Prevention" Campaign Wednesday in Tuscaloosa. AJ Martin, Chief of Tuscaloosa Fire Rescue says the time has come to do something about the high number of fire deaths. According to Martin, "Alabama is proud to be number one in a lot of things. We're not proud to be number one in that."
Paulk tells Fox6 News, the state averages more than seventy-five fatal deaths a year with a high of one hundred and twenty-two. The Association calls sixty-one fire deaths in the first half of 2014 unacceptable. They pledge to make fire prevention a year round effort.
"Specifically, one week in October has been fire prevention week or month. We focused a lot or our attention there. It's time for us to focus year-round on this common theme," Said Joey Darby, the President of the Alabama Fire Chief's Association.
9-year-old Callister Atchely, of Keener in Etowah County, is the most recent person killed in a house fire in Alabama. Though the cause of the Monday night fire that killed him and injured three others is unknown, experts say the vast majority of fatal fires this year are result of cooking, carelessness with candles and other open flames are trying heat homes in cold weather.
Overall, experts say folks should be more aware of fire safety and have a plan of action if there is a fire in their home. Paulk started the discussion by saying, "We are responsible for ourselves. We need to make proper decisions. We need to save lives."
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