Fatal fires prompt urgent message from state officials - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Fatal fires prompt urgent message from state officials

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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

37 fatal fires in Alabama in three months. State officials say the number is alarming, but there's very little they can do.

Instead, they need you to help keep that statistic from growing.

Fire officials say carelessness is often to blame.

"Bad choices that we make in our daily lives that result in these fire fatalities," says State Fire Marshal, Ed Paulk.

Paulk says improper space heater use, overcrowded electrical outlets and unattended food on the stove are the catalysts for most house fires.

"It's just those decisions that we make on a daily basis that we become accustomed to taking shortcuts and doing things and getting away with it and then something happens and we don't get away with it," adds Paulk.

Officials believe unexpected, cool temperatures could be contributing to the influx of space heater usage.

They say using them could be more costly than simply changing the thermostat.

"A lot of times people place them too close to a combustible item and over a period of time they get so hot and then causing a fire," says Captain Mark Williams with the Montgomery Fire Department.

Williams has seen his fair share of flames.

One thing most don't realize is "these fires...once they start and you don't have a lot of time," adds Williams.

Williams says homeowners are tempted to make one big mistake--go back inside the house once a fire is raging.

"It's not the fire that generally kills someone. It's the toxic smoke that goes along with it."

Details, that if dismissed could kill you.

"There's nothing in there that makes it worth you losing your life over."

Officials say alcohol has been a main factor with these fires, too.

Because hunger typically sets in after someone has been drinking, Paulk says people naturally begin cooking.

The hazard?  They fall asleep with food on the stove.

And often times never wake up.

State fire officials say 2012 saw 78 total fire fatalities.

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