Compare the fire death numbers as opposed to 1977.

Record low 35 deaths in city fires in 2004

January 3, 2005

The Chicago Fire Department on Sunday reported 35 fire-related deaths for 2004 -- 20 fewer than the year before.

The 35 deaths are a fraction of the highest number of fatalities on record: 196 in 1977. Before 2004, the fewest fire-related deaths were in 1998, with 47 reported.

In 2003, according to department spokeswoman Rosa Escareno, the number of fire-related deaths was 55.

Fire officials say the record reduction is a result of continued overall proactive fire safety measures the city has taken.

"Any death, especially a preventable fire death, is a tragedy," said Fire Commissioner Cortez Trotter. "We will continue to develop policies and educational programs that promote fire safety and prevention to even further minimize these fatalities."

Trotter said fire safety education, coupled with enhanced fire prevention policies, have contributed to the overall reduction in deaths.

Of the 35 who died in fires in 2004, 16 percent were younger than 18, and 30 percent were between the age of 19 and 50. More than half, 54 percent, were over 51.

As of November 2004, 60 percent of fires in Chicago took place in two-story homes, and 97 percent of those homes did not have working smoke detectors.

Fire officials have said they heeded the advice of a report critical of the department's response to the Cook County Administration Building fire that left six dead in 2003, and that the city is safer for it.

Sun-Times staff reports