In January of this year, a devastating blaze ripped through an Edison apartment building in Edison leaving one woman dead, five people injured and up to 100 others homeless. In March, a space heater ignited a mattress causing a fire that gutted one building and destroyed two others in New Brunswick. In May, an unattended cigarette caused a three-alarm fire that destroyed two condominium units and damaged 14 others in East Windsor.
As startling as these neighborhood catastrophes may seem, most people still don't think enough about fire and fire safety. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), almost 4,000 people died in home fires last year and property losses exceeded $6 billion. The long-term emotional damage to fire victims and their loved ones is incalculable.
Causes for Concern
"Smoking is still the biggest cause of house fires in New Jersey," says Dan DeTrolio, a member of the New Jersey Fire Safety Commission and chairman of the group's public education council.
The snow, wind, and freezing temperatures of winter are settling over the region, and that means that many homeowners may turn to supplemental room heaters to warm their home. "Heaters, stoves and other heating appliances are also big causes of fire," says DeTrolio. "Candles are also a fast-growing cause of many fires."
The NFPA reports that candles started fires in 18,000 homes in 2001, a 15 percent rise from 2000, and more than triple the number in 1990.