Virginia Beach Fire Department seeing more fire deaths

Posted at 7:07 PM, Feb 12, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-12 19:07:13-05

Virginia Beach, Va. (WTKR) – The Virginia Beach Fire Department says they’ve noticed a concerning trend: more yearly fire deaths since 2012.

“In 2013 we had 6 fire deaths that we recorded, and in 2012 we had 8 and that's just unacceptable for us,” explained Battalion Chief Amy Valdez.

By comparison, 2010 saw just one death while there were two in 2011.

“In the history of the fire department, we've really only had one or two- maybe three in an off year- deaths in this community,” Valdez stated.

So far in 2014, three women have died as a result of fires in Virginia Beach.

In January, Marcia Varcus, 82, and Nancy Basnight, 67, were killed in a house fire on Thamesford Drive.

Last week, Valdez says an 83-year-old woman died after accidentally setting her clothes on fire while smoking in her Bayview Avenue home.

“We've been working on the last few years on our citizen safety and public safety and trying to educate people on what they can do to prevent fires and to potentially survive a fire if one should occur,” Valdez stated.

The Virginia Beach Fire Department is still trying to figure out what’s behind the increase in deaths.

“Why we are seeing it in the City of Virginia Beach - I'm not sure yet,” Valdez commented.  “We are really looking into that, but the trend seems to align with the nationwide trend and that is - lack of an operational smoke detector, smoking and cooking.”

Regardless of the reason behind the trend, Valdez says the department is working hard on education and prevention efforts.

“If we can prevent the fire in the front - then maybe we won't have to have that tragedy in the back,” Valdez said.  “We really would love to see those numbers be zero year after year and that's our goal.”