The Chicago Tribune has an article about 2013 being the year with the fewest fire deaths in Chicago’s history.

Sixteen people died in fires in Chicago in 2013, the lowest number of such fatalities ever recorded in one year in the city.

“It’s been … moving in that direction for the past several years,” said Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford, who credited the use of smoke detectors, advancements in medical technology and quick response of fire crews. The lowest total had been 18 in 2008.

“Generally in the mid-1990s, around 50-plus a year was not uncommon,” Langford said. “If you go back in to the 60s and 70s, more than 100 was not uncommon. So it’s been dropping over a long period of time.”

The passing of a smoke detector ordinance about 15 years ago “has a lot to do with it” with the death toll going down, Langford said.

Other factors include “our response and rapid search and rescue progress. And we can’t minimize the EMS part … getting a person out of a building — a lot of times we’re able to revive them,” Langford said.

The largest loss of life in one fire remains the December, 1903 blaze that erupted during a Wednesday matinee performance of “Mr. Blue Beard” at the Iroquois Theater in the Loop, killing more than 600 people. “Most were trampled to death,” Langford said.

Langford said the department will continue its program of distributing smoke detectors. “We give out thousands each year when people need them and when they can’t afford them,” he said. Another ongoing effort is teaching people how to escape from a fire and what do to during a high-rise fire.


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