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Elderly couple caught in New York apartment fire

An 88-year-old woman died and her husband were critically injured in a fire that erupted in their apartment in Harlem.  Firefighters rushed to a fire alert at their apartment located at 70 LaSalle Street near Amsterdam Avenue in Morningside Heights, NYC. They found the couple inside and rushed them to the hospital. Unfortunately the wife didn’t survive. The husband is still in critical condition. The couple’s apartment was located at the 15th floor of the building. The cause of the fire is still being investigated. Read more in the NY Daily News

In New York City, seniors have a higher risk of dying in home fires than the rest of the population. According to statistics from the New York City Fire Department , smoking is the leading cause of fire deaths in the homes of adults who are 65-years-old and older. Heating equipment is the second cause of  fatal fires at seniors apartments followed by cooking equipment and electrical.

Leading Causes of fire Death for elderly in NYC

Elderly people who are smoking have a much higher risk to be the victim of a residential fire than those who are not smoking. The FDNY recommends elderly people who are smoking:

  • to use large and deep ashtrays
  • to never leave a lighted cigarette in an ashtray
  • to place ashtrays in a safe and stable location and not on the arm of  a couch or a chair
  • to put water on the  cigar or cigarette butts before discarding them
  • to double-check and make sure that no butts have fell on furniture before going to bed or leaving the apartment

Many electrical fires can be prevented simply by making sure that appropriate bulbs are used for lighting. Usage of bulbs that have too many watts for a light fixture can lead to overheating and fire. The New York City Fire Department also recommends that elderly people or their caregiver make sure that electrical cords are not damaged and prevent overloading. Plugging too many appliances into the same outlet can lead to fires as well. Outlets and switch plates should always be in good condition.  Electrical appliances that are not safe such as defective coffee makers and toasters should not be used.

Space heaters and electric blankets are also a major cause of  seniors apartment fires. The FDNY recommends to always position heaters at least 3 feet away from any flammable item. As for electric blankets the best away to avoid a dangerous fire accident is to heat the bed and unplug the blanket before going to bed.

When cooking, it is recommended to avoid wearing clothes with long loose sleeves and always stand by the pans. Most kitchen fires start when the cooking food is left unattended.

For more advice on preventing fires in seniors apartments download the Fire Safety for Seniors brochure

Graph source: Fire Safety for Seniors Brochure, FDNY