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Press Releases / 2005 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 30, 2005



The holiday season brings cheer, but also hidden fire dangers;
Fire-related injuries and fatalities more than double during the winter season

FFire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta and Dr. Roger Yurt Director of the Hearst Burn Center at NewYork- Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center today urged New Yorkers to practice basic fire safety in their homes during this winter holiday season at a press conference held at the FDNY Fire Zone in Rockefeller Center. On average, each year civilian fire-related injuries increase by nearly 30 percent and fire fatalities more than double during the winter months of November, December, January and February. The Hearst Burn Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell – the busiest burn center nationwide – also experiences a patient increase as much as 20 percent during those months alone.

“The holiday season is traditionally a very joyous time of year. Unfortunately, this is also a time when fire-related injuries and deaths increase,” said Fire Commissioner Scoppetta. “These tragedies are unnecessary and very preventable. I urge all New Yorkers to practice fire safety this winter season. Never leave candles unattended. Use tested and approved space heaters and extension cords. And, most importantly, make sure you have a working smoke and carbon monoxide detector on every level of your home. It’s your first line of protection for you and your family against fire.”

"Although the holiday's are a time for family and celebration, all the activity and excitement tends to make people less careful about fire safety in the home at a time when more caution needs to be exercised. This results in an increased number of burn injuries and patients brought to our Burn Center. Our hope is that through increased public awareness in conjunction with the New York Fire Department and the New York Firefighters Burn Center Foundation, more attention will be paid to fire safety so that the holidays can remain a joyous time for all," said Dr. Roger Yurt.

In 2004, the leading causes of fire-related injuries and deaths were candles, careless smoking and misuse of electrical extension cords. During the holiday season, Christmas trees, decorative lighting and holiday candles can easily become serious fire hazards when proper safety precautions are ignored. Always remember two simple rules when using candles: never leave lit candles unattended and always extinguish them before going to bed. When utilizing space heaters, remember to use only UL rated and approved models and keep them away from flammable materials such as bedding, curtains and furniture. Most fires are preventable and most fire deaths are preventable as well.

This was demonstrated on Thanksgiving morning when three civilians in Midwood section of Brooklyn were critically and seriously injured when a fire caused by a space heater began in their apartment.

Over the last several years, the Fire Department and Hearst Burn Center each have aggressively launched a public awareness campaigns about the dangers of candles, Christmas trees and careless smoking – all with successful results. Changes in local laws, building materials and building codes – along with increased awareness, fire safety education and better equipment – have all played a role in the reduction of serious fires, fire fatalities and fire related injuries citywide.

Last year, civilian fire deaths reached their lowest level since 1919 with 82 fatalities in 2004. The preliminary number of fire deaths this year is 89*. Last year at this time, there were 75 deaths. Despite the increase, the City continues to experience the fewest fire-related deaths in its history.


Civilian Fire Fatalities













Fire safety education is the centerpiece at the FDNY Fire Zone in Rockefeller Center. Fire scenarios are recreated in a state-of-the-art, educational multi-media presentation at the Fire Zone to teach the public – primarily children – about fire safety and the dangers of fire. Fire safety education materials are available in a number of languages including Spanish, Yiddish, Urdu, Arabic, Korean, Mandarin and Russian. These materials are available through the Fire Department and FDNY Fire Safety Education Fund. The Hearst Burn Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell also provides additional educational materials on fire safety and burn treatment.

Top Holiday Fire Safety Tips

  • If you have a real tree, keep it watered and away from heat sources, sparks or flames
  • Use only UL approved lights and wiring and do not overload connections
  • Never leave lit candles unattended.
  • Never attempt to heat your home with the oven (Call 3-1-1 to report no heat)
  • Use only UL approved space heaters and keep them away from furniture, bedding, curtains and other materials that may catch fire.
  • If you must smoke, DO NOT SMOKE IN BED! Make sure all cigarette butts are properly extinguished before discarding.
  • Make sure you always have a properly working smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector on every level of your home.

For more information about winter holiday fire safety visit the Fire Department’s website at or the Fire Zone at Multilingual brochures are also available online.

*This is a preliminary number to 11/28/05. Statistics provided by the FDNY Bureau of Fire Investigation.

Contact: Virginia Lam, FDNY (718) 999-2056 /
Jan Sileo NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell (212) 821-0560

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