Omaha Marks Third Year With No Fire Fatalities

The last fire death that occurred in Omaha, Neb. was three years ago, something officials attribute to an increase in training and public education.

On Dec. 9, 2008, 3-year-old Davius Potter-Tate died of smoke inhalation after a house fire and was the fifth fire fatality in the city that year, according to The World-Herald.

The following year, Omaha had no fire fatalities for the first time since at least 1949.

Before that, the lowest number of Omaha fire deaths was in the past 20 years occurred in 1995, with one death recorded, according to the newspaper.

Officials in and outside of the department say that for a city the size of Omaha -- whose firefighters respond to close to 350 structure fires each year -- three straight years with no deaths is quite an accomplishment.

Steve Zaccard, a fire marshal in charge of fire prevention at the St. Paul Fire Department in Minnesota, told the newspaper that he plans on calling officials to find out their secret.

"It's not by chance, I'm certain," he said. "It's by design. My hat's off to them."

Omaha fire officials say polices put in place by Fire Chief Mike McDonnell to increase training, smoke alarm installations, building inspections and public education have played a big role in the decrease in deaths.

"Everything is off the charts compared with what it used to be," Omaha Fire Marshal Jim Gentile said.