Press Releases

State Fire Marshal Urges Tennesseans to Practice Fire Safety This Fall

Press release from the Tennessee Fire Marshal’s Office; October 28, 2013:

NASHVILLE, TN – Five Tennesseans lost their lives in home fires over the weekend. Four adults and one child were killed in house fires in Hamblen, Carter, and Henry Counties. Preliminary results of the fire investigations indicate that the fires were accidental in nature. Every day preventable fires happen in Tennessee causing millions of dollars in property damage and in the worst cases, loss of life. The State Fire Marshal’s Office wants individuals across the state to take action and talk to loved ones about fire prevention in the home.

“We are devastated to hear that five people lost their lives this weekend in house fires,” says State Fire Marshal and Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak. “Tennessee continues to occupy a high fire mortality ranking in the United States and the State Fire Marshal’s Office is asking residents to help us change that by making fire prevention a priority in every Tennessee home.”

With colder temperatures come more opportunities for home fires to occur. This season make fire prevention a topic of conversation in your household and talk to your loved ones, both young and old, about the importance of taking fire safety measures.

“The first defense against a potentially fatal fire is making sure your home has working smoke alarms,” says Assistant Commissioner for Fire Prevention Gary West. “Smoke alarms save lives. They are inexpensive and can make all the difference in a house fire.”

Read the following tips to make sure you are taking the necessary precautions to protect your home and loved ones from fire.

  • Make sure your home has a working smoke alarm. Working smoke alarms can double your chances of survival during a home fire by providing an early alert. Install at least one alarm on every level of your home, including the basement. For best protection, install an alarm inside and outside every sleeping room.
  • Don’t overload circuits or extension cords. Avoid placing cords under rugs, over nails, or in high traffic areas of the home.
  • Major and small appliances should be plugged directly into a wall outlet. Never use an extension cord. Unplug small appliances when not in use.
  • Turn portable heaters off when you go to bed or leave a room.
  • Keep anything that can burn, including bedding, clothing, curtains, pets and people at least three feet away from portable heaters.
  • Plug portable heaters directly into outlets and never into an extension cord or power strip.
  • Clean your chimney and/or vents every year.
  • Use only newspaper and kindling wood or fire starters to start a fire. Never use flammable liquids, such as lighter fluid, kerosene, or gasoline, to start a fire. They produce invisible vapors that can easily catch fire.
  • Remember to always stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling, or broiling food.
  • Develop a home fire escape plan with two ways out of every room and a common outside meeting place. Share and practice the plan with every member of the household.
  • If you smoke, smoke outside!
  • Never smoke in a home where oxygen is used.
  • If your home is on fire, get out and stay out!

For more information on making your home fire-safe, download and print the State Fire Marshal’s home fire safety checklist (

Press Releases

State Distributing 20,000 Smoke Detectors

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance; November 21, 2012:  

NASHVILLE, TN – Fresh off the news from the National Fire Protection Association that Tennessee has improved its fatal-fire rankings by four positions, on Nov. 27, the State Fire Marshal’s Office will begin distributing smoke alarms to the counties most likely to have residential fire deaths.

“This massive, statewide, months-long distribution of smoke alarms is all part of our effort to both educate and equip Tennesseans to incorporate fire safety into their daily lives,” Tennessee Fire Marshal and Commerce & Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak said. “We want residents to make sure they have functional smoke alarms in their homes, as well as a rehearsed fire-escape plan. These are tools proven to save lives – because even one fire death is one too many.” The program kicks off 10 a.m., Tuesday, Nov. 27, at Elizabethton Fire Department in Carter County.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office has been awarded a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Fire Prevention Grant to purchase 20,000 smoke alarms for installations across the state of Tennessee. Eight thousand of these alarms will be distributed by the end of December 2012. The remaining 12,000 alarms will be distributed throughout the first 6 months of 2013.

For many years, Tennessee has held the undesirable ranking of the state with the second-most fire deaths in the nation. The State Fire Marshal’s Office has been committed to working alongside local fire departments to reduce this high fire mortality rate. These efforts were reflected when the NFPA recently released its latest report of U.S. Unintentional Fire Death Rates by State and listed Tennessee as having the sixth-most fire deaths in the nation.

“While this is a major improvement, the State Fire Marshal’s Office wants Tennesseans to know that the work does not stop there,” Fire Prevention Assistant Commissioner Gary West said. “We are thankful our incorporation of scientific data to pinpoint at-risk areas across the state is paying off in a reduction of fire deaths.” The State Fire Marshal’s Office is targeting 78 Census tracts across the state that have been identified as having the highest risk for fire fatalities. These areas were identified as part of a study done by the University of Tennessee Institute for Public Service and the Tennessee Municipal League. According to the study, several social, economic, and housing variables correspond with residential fire deaths. These included education variables, median household incomes and median home values.

These variables were used to identify the census tracts in which no fire deaths had yet occurred, but we’re most like those tracts where fire deaths had occurred during 2002-2010.

The distribution will start with the following dates and locations:

  • Tuesday, November 27, 10:00 a.m.
    Elizabethton, TN (Carter County)
    Elizabethton Fire Department
    121 S. Sycamore Street
    Counties targeted: Carter, Johnson, Unicoi, Washington, Sullivan
  • Wednesday, November 28, 10:00 a.m.
    Greeneville, TN (Greene County)
    Tusculum Fire Department
    145 Alexander Street
    Counties targeted: Greene, Cocke, Hamblen, Jefferson
  •  Wednesday, November 28, 5:30 p.m.
    Rogersville, TN (Hawkins County)
    Rogersville Fire Department
    106 E. Kyle Street
    Counties targeted: Hawkins, Grainger, Hancock, Claiborne

The following week, the State Fire Marshal’s Office will go to the southeast portion of the state. That will be followed by distribution in West Tennessee and in Middle Tennessee. For distribution updates, go to

In addition to the smoke alarm distribution program, the State Fire Marshal’s Office is joining the Kidde Company in their efforts to increase public awareness of the importance of having working smoke alarms and a fire escape plan. The State Fire Marshal’s Office and Kidde are encouraging everyone to visit and take the “Be a Hero, Save a Hero” pledge to help protect your family and our firefighters.