Washington fire deaths down slightly in recent years

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Fewer fire-related deaths were reported in 2012 than in the two previous years, according to a report released Wednesday by the Office of the State Fire Marshal.

Fire agencies reported 63 fire deaths last year, down from 71 in 2011 and 67 in 2010.

"This downward trend is a positive step in reducing these tragic losses within our communities," State Fire Marshal Charles M. Duffy wrote in a letter to fire and law enforcement agencies that accompanied the report.

Last year's numbers are still slightly higher than the state average for the decade prior: about 59 deaths per year.

Fire deaths usually happen where people sleep. Almost eight of every 10 fire deaths in Washington last year happened in residences. Almost one in 10 happened in recreational vehicles, boats or travel trailers.

Most fires that killed people in 2012 - of those where investigators could find a cause — were electrical-related. Those accounted for almost one in every five deadly fires in the state.

Smoking-related fires were close behind as a leading cause.

Other common causes of deadly fires were home heating or candle burning.

Washington was below the national average of fire deaths per million people. On that measure, it ranked almost squarely in the middle, with the 27th-lowest rate in the country.

About one in four fatal fires in Washington last year happened where the smoke alarms or detectors were reported to not be working. Two deaths occurred from fires in rooms that had sprinkler systems. Other factors that kept the person from escaping could have contributed to those cases, the report states.