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PR- 359-04
December 23, 2004


City on Track to Reach Lowest Number of Civilian Fire Fatalities Since 1919;
Mayor and Commissioner Remind New Yorkers of Fire Safety Tips for the Holiday Season

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta today announced that the City is on track to track to record an 85-year low in fire fatalities in New York City.  To date in 2004 there have been 81 civilian fire-related deaths.  The last time the City recorded such low numbers of civilian fire fatalities was in 1919 when there were 77, which was the lowest number of fire fatalities ever recorded.  The Mayor and Fire Commissioner also reminded New Yorkers of winter and holiday season fire safety tips at a press conference held at the Fire Zone in Rockefeller Center.

"Bringing down the number of civilian fire deaths to numbers not seen in 85 years is a truly remarkable achievement and illustrates the dedication and commitment of New York's Bravest," said Mayor Bloomberg.  "The FDNY is doing better than ever in fighting and preventing fires, and educating New Yorkers who have become more conscious and more responsible about fire hazards in their homes.  I want to wish everybody a happy and safe holiday season."

"Our Firefighters do an extraordinary job saving lives and property," said Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta. "The best training and equipment coupled with increased efforts to educate the public about fire safety and prevention continues to make this city safer for all of its citizens-and safer for the firefighters who risk their lives to save others."

The low number of civilian fire deaths to date this year follows a total of 125 last year and 97 in 2002.  The average number of annual civilian fire deaths was 164 in the 1990's, 234 in the 1980's, and 278 in the 1970's.   The average Fire and EMS response time has held steady this year at 4 minutes and 20 seconds.

Over the last several years, the Mayor's Office and the Fire Department have aggressively launched public awareness campaigns about the dangers of candles, Christmas trees and careless smoking - 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 major role in the reduction of serious fires, fire fatalities and fire related injuries in New York City. A new law also went into effect November 1 requiring carbon monoxide detectors to be installed in all multiple and private dwellings as well as in institutional and educational facilities throughout the City.

The Mayor and Fire Commissioner reminded New Yorkers of winter and holiday season fire safety tips. The holiday season is often marred by unnecessary and preventable tragedies. Christmas trees, decorative lighting and holiday candles can easily become serious fire hazards when proper safety precautions are ignored. One of the top causes of fire fatalities is careless use of candles. Always remember two simple rules when using candles: never leave lit candles unattended and always extinguish them before going to bed.

These and other causes of fires are carefully recreated and discussed in a state-of-the-art, educational multi-media presentation at the "Fire Zone," the Fire Department's educational center in Rockefeller Center. The Fire Zone was created to teach the public - primarily children - about fire safety and the dangers of fire.

"People who come to the Fire Zone become part of the fire safety team and help to reduce fires and fire deaths every year.  They make home escape plans and practice them with their families; they install and maintain smoke detectors; and they work to prevent fires from starting in the first place by practicing candle safety, avoiding overloaded electrical circuits, and monitoring all heat sources," said Michelle LeMay Santiago, Executive Director of the Fire Safety Education Fund. "Now, to reach those who can't make it to the Fire Zone, we are taking the Fire Zone lessons of empowerment "on the road" to communities of highest risk and translating our materials in many different languages.  We hope that every New Yorker will join the fire safety team and help our fire fighters keep you safe."

Top Winter/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.
  • Do not attempt to heat your home with the oven. Burning gas in a closed house or apartment uses up oxygen and produces deadly carbon monoxide gases. (Call 311 to report no heat.)
  • 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 on every level of your home.
  • Make sure you always have a properly working carbon monoxide detector in your home.
  • Keep chimneys clean and maintain chimney flues.
  • Kerosene heaters are dangerous and illegal in New York City. If you use electric heaters make sure that they are U.L. rated, and kept away from any combustible materials such as draperies and linens. Unplug electric blankets and portable electric heaters when not in use.

For more information about holiday fire safety visit the Fire Department's website at or the Fire Zone at


Edward Skyler / Robert Lawson   (212) 788-2958

Francis X. Gribbon   (718) 999-2056

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