• Firefighters see alarming rise in fire deaths, push cooking safety

    By: Brittney Johnson

    Updated:

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - It's only May and more people in Charlotte have died in fires in 2018 than in all of 2017.

    The majority are connected to cooking. 

    City leaders said it's happening too often, and now firefighters are working on an awareness campaign to save more lives.

    Fire officials said the common factor appears to be that too many people are getting distracted and walking away from the kitchen while they are cooking.

    "You're cooking, you're dealing with an open flame, and at the same time, we're distracted," Charlotte Fire Department Capt. Jackie Gilmore said.

    Fire officials said that in 2017, house fires killed five people, and two of those deaths were connected to kitchen fires.

    This year, there have already been six fire deaths, and five are from cooking fires, including a devastating apartment fire in April on Rose Thorn Place that killed a 23-year-old woman and her 9-year-old cousin.

    "People are distracted. We are so tied up multitasking and trying to get as many things done as quickly as we can," fire safety instructor Greg Francus said.

    Francus' team visits communities after someone dies to educate neighbors.

    "When it happens in your neighborhood to somebody in your family, they say, 'Yeah, it really does happen. Maybe I need to start paying attention.'" Francus said. 

    To get everyone's attention, Charlotte Fire is developing new public service announcements, teaming up with the Red Cross and Blue Cross Blue Shield to canvas 40 neighborhoods across Charlotte in June.

    They will educate families on cooking dangers and having a fire safety plan. They will also check smoke alarms, which are the second major factor contributing to the alarming number of deaths.

    "We're going to get out here and we're going to try to save lives. That's the mission," Gilmore said. 

    Gilmore said fire deaths are is not just a problem in Charlotte, and that firefighters are seeing an alarming number of fire deaths across the state.

    The state fire marshal is launching a statewide campaign this summer.

    CFD is also doing special fire safety education with Charlotte Refugee Support Services and Habitat for Humanity. 

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