Wilmington is one of America’s riskiest cities for home fires, a new analysis of federal data has concluded.
Requests for comment from Wilmington Fire Department Chief John Looney and State Fire Marshal Michael G. Chionchio were not returned.
Three cities in California’s Central Valley – Modesto, Fresno and Stockton – place first, third and sixth in the rankings.
The Connecticut-based insurer timed the third installment of its rankings to announce that the Wilmington Fire Department will receive a $10,000 grant for fire safety education.
The grant is part of $1.5 million committed over the next three years from The Hartford’s Junior Fire Marshal program to educate 1.5 million kindergarteners through third graders on fire safety and prevention.
“Children play a significant role in keeping homes safe from fire, and we are proud to provide parents and educators with the tools and resources they need to teach the next generation about reducing fire risk,” Claire Burns, The Hartford’s chief marketing officer, said in a statement.
Along with crunching statistics from the U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Incident Reporting System, The Hartford surveyed 15,000 adults nationwide (about 100 per city) and announced these assessments of where Wilmington residents can improve.
Home fires: Risks and preparedness
Assessing common fire risks, 79% of Wilmington respondents charged a device overnight, 21% smoked indoors, and 6% left a lit cigarette unattended in a room.
Assessing fire preparedness, 43% of Wilmington respondents have fire/smoke detector in every bedroom (57% of all U.S. respondents do) and 64% have an emergency escape plan.
Since the last survey, in 2020, The Hartford reported significant declines, of 45% to 75%, in risky behaviors, such as leaving a lit candle near flammable items, falling asleep with a fire burning in the fireplace, leaving matches and lights in the open with children present and overloading electrical outlets.
It reported smaller decreases, between 16% and 46%, in preventative actions, such as having a smoke detector in every bedroom, replacing smoke detector batteries at least once a year and having an escape plan. Fire marshals nationwide use the slogan “change your clocks, change your batteries” to urge changing smoke detector batteries every six months.
Delaware since the 1990s has required smoke detectors on each level – including the basement – of all one- and two-family dwellings, mobile homes, modular homes and townhouses. Detectors should be installed outside each bedroom or group of bedrooms as well, according to Delaware’s state fire marshal.
A few Delaware jurisdictions are going further. Lewes, Milton and Newark require residential fire sprinkler systems in new single-family detached homes and townhomes.
“Seaford has left the installation of fire sprinklers in new houses optional, but has amended their permit fees to make the installation much more affordable,” said Paul Eichler, chairman of the Delaware Fire Sprinkler Coalition and an instructor at the Delaware State Fire School for 29 years. “New Castle County is currently reviewing the requirements for residential fire sprinkler systems.”
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