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Sunday February 14th, 2016 9:41AM

Fire deaths ahead of average, fire educators prepare for October

By B.J. Williams News Director
GAINESVILLE - As firefighters across the state prepare for Fire Prevention Month in October, local fire educators are aware that fire deaths in the state are already higher than they should be.

Lt. Beverly Walker, the Fire/Life Safety Educator for Hall County Fire Services said so far this year, 91 people have died in fires in Georgia. The average, she said is around 100, and cold weather - when most fire deaths occur - has not arrived.

"We still have October, November and December left, so I'm afraid this is going to be a tragic year - it already has been - but even more tragic than in the years past," said Walker.

Walker pointed out the latest fire fatalities happened just last week in north Georgia. A toddler died in a house fire in Winder and a young autistic man lost his life in a Hoschton blaze. While Walker said she didn't want to speculate on what happened, since Hall Fire Services did not investigate those fires, her suspicion is that neither family had an escape plan, something she said is vital for every household.

"Especially when there's young children in the home, special needs, even older adults that may require assistance in evacuating during an emergency, there should be a plan," said Walker.

Investigators said the Hoschton fire likely started when food was left unattended on a stove, and Walker said that's typically how a residential fire begins.

"Forty-two percent of all fires start by unattended cooking," said Walker. She said people leave something simmering on the stove top and leave the kitchen and forget about what they're doing until it's too late.

Walker said Hall Fire Services, as well as most fire departments across the state and the country, will participate in a number of awareness and safety events in October, hoping to educate area residents and prevent further fire tragedies.
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