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Fire-related fatalities at historic low in 2019

A researcher said the increased use of smoke alarms helped to cut fatalities by more than half over the past decade.

Rivitalo paloi Klaukkalassa Nurmijärvellä uudenvuodenyönä 1. tammikuuta 2020.
A row house in Klaukkala caught fire on New Year's Eve. Image: Vesa Moilanen/ Lehtikuva

Forty-nine people died in fires in Finland during 2019 -- a record low compared to previous years, according to preliminary figures from the Emergency Services Academy.

The relatively low number of fire-related fatalities was particularly due to laws on the books regarding smoke alarms, according to the academy's researcher director Esa Kokki.

Since the beginning of 1999 it has been mandatory to have smoke detectors installed in all homes. Since 2010, the law has stipulated there should be at least one smoke alarm for every 60 square meters on each floor of a residential building.

"You can see this in the reduced number of deaths in fires that started in bedrooms. Increasingly people are putting smoke alarms in their bedrooms," Kokki said.

Fatalities more than halved

Over a period of more than a decade, fire-related deaths have declined steadily. In 2007, 109 people lost their lives in residential fires, while two years ago, in 2018, the death toll was 51.

"Another big reason for the reduction in fatalities was the law on self-extinguishing cigarettes," Kokki said, referring to legislation that went into effect in 2010.

However, the biggest culprit behind all residential fires last year remained inappropriately-extinguished cigarettes. Other chief causes of house fires were malfunctioning electronic devices and arson.

Most of the 49 people who lost their lives in home fires last year were men, while only 15 were women.

The Emergency Services Academy said its report on fire fatalities is still in a preliminary stage and noted that the official death toll is expected to be confirmed by police next month.

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