City of Austin Performance Report 2014-15

Number of Unintentional Fire Deaths in the Past 12 Months

Measure Description
This performance measure is defined as the number of unintentional deaths from fire. Common causes of unintentional fire deaths include, but are not limited to: unattended cooking, improper disposal of smoking materials, combustibles placed too close to heaters, electrical malfunctions, and candles left unattended.
Calculation Method
Medical Examiner reports of autopsy results are the primary determinant for cause of death; death from fire includes burns or smoke inhalation. Fire deaths also include deaths from trauma resulting from fire (for example, jumping out of a window). Arson investigators determine if the fire was unintentional or deliberately set.
FY 2014-15 Results
Five unintentional fire deaths occurred in FY 2014-15. This exceeded the goal of zero fire deaths.
Assessment of Results
The Austin Fire Department (AFD) has a goal of Zero Fire Deaths. Rather than setting goals on historic averages, AFD recognizes that fire deaths are never acceptable. Unfortunately, in FY 2014-15, four (4) unintentional fire deaths occurred in single family residences and one (1) fire death occurred in a vehicle collision. The cause of the fires that occurred within the single family residences were:  electrical malfunctions (2 deaths), a candle left unattended (1 death), and one cause of fire was undetermined after arson investigation (1 death). Of these four (4) fire fatalities within residential homes, two (2) of the homes did not have a working smoke alarm, one (1) of the homes had a working smoke alarm, and one (1) of the homes had a smoke alarm present, but it is not known if the alarm worked.   
Picture of a building on fire, with a fire truck spraying water on it.
Next Steps
AFD takes all loss of life and property seriously and knows that prevention and public education can help better prepare Austin residents for emergencies.  As a result, AFD continues its mission to install free smoke alarms in residential homes. In FY 2014-15 AFD conducted several neighborhood smoke alarm canvasses and installed 2,489 smoke alarms, approximately 8.5 percent more than FY 2013-14. AFD aims to install 2,500 free smoke alarms in FY 2015-16.
 Within AFD, the Planning and Research division developed an application to spatially display historical fire trends and fatalities within the City of Austin. Through this GIS platform, Community Outreach is better able to focus smoke alarm canvasses based on historical data trends. Through the dissemination of spatial information, AFD is able to make more informed data-driven decisions to educate the public. 
Contact Information
For more information, contact Matt Orta, Assistant Chief, (512) 974-0135.