by Brian Stimson
For New Pittsburgh Courier
(NNPA)—The International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters launched the “No Child Left Alone Fire Safety Campaign” during Fire Prevention Week, in order to educate Black people everywhere about the risk of fire in their communities. Of all children killed in home fires, 38 percent were Black according to a 2008 report by the U.S. Fire Administration. According to the Black Firefighters Association:
•Black Americans face a risk of fire death almost twice that of individuals of another race;
•Spanish-speaking children under the age of five years old comprised an average of 23 percent of all Spanish-speaking people killed in home fires in the United States from 2003 to 2007;
•Children under the age of five account for more than half of all child-fire deaths. These children are usually unable to escape from a fire by themselves;
•More than half of fires started by children playing with fire occur in a bedroom. Black firefighters say children should never be left unsupervised at home, even for a few minutes. The risk that a fire starts increases even when a child is being looked after by an older child.
There are many steps parents and guardians can take to protect their homes and loved ones. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the vast majority of fires that lead to death have two causes—cooking equipment and cigarettes or other smoking material. Even when there isn’t risk of a major fire in the kitchen, children are more likely to be scalded or burned by hot food, liquids or equipment than they are to be burned in a house fire. And the lack of smoke alarms adds a big risk factor. Nearly two- thirds of residential fires that kill children occur in homes without a working smoke alarm.
The reasons that more African-American children die in residential fires is rooted in historic inequities. Low-income families are more likely to be victims of fire due to substandard housing, lack of smoke alarms, economic constraints to provide adult supervision and use of alternative heating sources.
(For more information about how you can keep your family safer from fires, visit the website http://iabpff.org.)