2016 One Of The Deadliest Years For Fires In The State

Posted at 6:50 PM, Dec 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-12 20:18:55-05

The year 2016 has been turning out to be one of the deadliest years for fires in Tennessee.

The last time we saw as many people die in fires was six years ago.

The big increase this year comes after Tennessee saw a big drop in the number of fire deaths two years in a row.

With each fire, more lives lost. Already this year, 102 people have died in fires in Tennessee, making it one of the deadliest years in recent state history.

"Obviously that's a tragic number. These are people. There are families behind those numbers," Kevin Walters with the TN Commerce and Insurance Department said.

And he admitted that what makes this even tougher is that this comes after the state had been making great progress in reducing the number of fire deaths, especially in the last two years.

The last time Tennessee saw more people die in fires was back in 2010, and right now, we're not that far behind that number and there are still more than two weeks left in the year.

Of course, there were the 14 people who lost their lives in the fires in Gatlinburg in November, but the state Fire Marshal's office said Tennessee's numbers were already high before that.

"One of the things we've seen is an increase in multi-generational home fires where there are different generations of people living under one roof. I think that has contributed to the overall increase," Walters explained.

He added that many of the deadly fires were in rural areas and the victims, either elderly or young.

"The elderly and the young are more susceptible to smoke, more so than a healthy young adult, and when it comes to where the fires occur, in rural areas, where there may not be as much fire coverage and fire protection," he said.

In the last national ranking, Tennessee was sixth in the country when it came to fire deaths, and this year's spike likely won't help.

"It's a tragic loss to lose one, but to lose 102 is devastating," Baylie Scott with the Tennessee Fire Marshal's Office explained.

It's her job to bring the death rate down. She said moving forward they'll study the data from this year's fires to figure out where and how to refocus their efforts, and they'll continue their push to get smoke detectors in more homes.

"We automatically think, 'Oh we have smoke alarms. No problem.' But people don't all have smoke alarms, and we want to make sure that there's no excuse not to have a smoke alarm," Scott told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.  

You can get a free smoke alarm from the state. Just go online to And remember, there are two different types of smoke detectors, photoelectric and ionization. You want to make sure you have both.