Special to Iredell Free News

RALEIGH — North Carolina experienced 146 fire fatalities in 2023, marking a slight decrease from 151 in 2022, the N.C. Office of State Fire Marshal (OSFM) reported.

The annual report underscores persistent challenges and areas for improvement in fire safety across the state.

Notably, the 2023 figure includes seven tragic deaths resulting from vehicle fires, emphasizing the importance of fire safety measures beyond traditional structures.

An alarming trend highlighted in the report is the concentration of fatal fires during the early morning hours. From 2020-2023, 40 deadly fires occurred between the hours of 1 and 2 a.m., indicating a need for heightened awareness and preparedness during these vulnerable times.

Harnett County emerged as the county with the highest number of fire fatalities in 2023, with 10 recorded deaths. Additionally, the report identifies Guilford County as having the highest three-year average, with 22 deaths, indicating an ongoing need for targeted fire safety initiatives in these counties.

The demographic breakdown of fire fatalities reveals that individuals ages of 50 to 64 accounted for 41 deaths, while those older than 65 represented 43 fatalities. This data emphasizes the importance of fire safety education and resources for at-risk populations.

OSFM is committed to outfitting homes with vital smoke alarms and enhancing awareness of fire prevention measures through initiatives like Smoke Alarm Saturday, in addition to partnering with programs like Sound Off and the Red Cross’ Sound the Alarm.

Smoke Alarm Saturday, held the first Saturday in June, is a flagship program designed to ensure that every home in North Carolina has working smoke alarms. By partnering with local fire departments and community organizations, OSFM coordinates efforts to install smoke alarms in residences that need them most. This proactive approach not only enhances the safety of individuals and families but also strengthens the overall resilience of communities in the face of fire emergencies.

In partnership with the American Red Cross, OSFM participates in the Sound the Alarm canvassing program. This initiative goes beyond the installation of smoke alarms by providing comprehensive education and awareness on fire safety. Trained volunteers engage with residents to offer valuable insights on fire prevention strategies, emergency preparedness and the importance of early detection through smoke alarms.

“While progress has been made in reducing fire fatalities, we recognize that more work remains to be done to ensure the safety and well-being of all North Carolinians,” State Fire Marshal Brian Taylor said. “By proactively addressing fire safety through initiatives like Smoke Alarm Saturday, Sound Off and the Red Cross Sound the Alarm canvassing programs, we aim to empower communities with the knowledge and resources needed to prevent fire related tragedies.”