The first fire fatality of 2019 has claimed the life of a man in his 60s in the town of North Anson.
Maine State Fire Marshal Joe Thomas says the cause is not yet clear, but he says it reflects a trend. He says he has noticed that when elderly people are present in a home that catches fire, they tend to die at higher rates than others.
“The average time we see multiple numbers of fire fatalities in a home is usually a senior, you know, 60s and up. And what we generally see is we lose the husband and the wife, not just the husband or the wife,” he says.
Part of the issue, Thomas says, is that with modern, petroleum-based building materials and furnishings, the average room only take three or four minutes to burst into flames. Forty years ago it took more than three times as long.
For seniors, trying to live out their lives at home, escaping a fire is now more difficult.
Thomas says his office has applied for a federal grant to create a fire prevention program aimed at the elderly living on their own.
Overall, Maine finished 2018 with 22 fire fatalities. Thomas says that number is on the high end of normal, with a state average of about 15-25.
He says the majority of fires in the state involve cooking and heating.