63 fire deaths last year in Washington state

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - The murder-suicide in which Josh Powell killed his two young sons and himself in a fiery explosion on Feb. 5, 2012, in Graham, was the worst fatal fire in the state last year. No other fire had more than three deaths, the state fire marshal's office said.

The total number of fire deaths last year in Washington was 63, down from 71 in 2011, according to an annual report released this week.

The numbers are within the normal fluctuation, said Deputy State Fire Marshal Lysandra Trejo.

The rate of 11 deaths per million people ranked Washington the 27th lowest in the nation.

According to the report, 78 percent of the fatal fires occurred in homes. Electrical problems (18 percent), smoking (14 percent) and home heating accidents (11 percent) were the leading causes.

Of the victims, 67 percent were 50 or older and 62 percent were men, the report said.

So far this year there have been 24 fire fatalities, compared with 28 at this time last year, Trejo said Thursday. The best thing people can do to protect themselves is make sure they have working smoke alarms, she said.

Of all the 2012 deaths, the loss of the Powell children seemed especially horrible.

Shortly after a social worker dropped his two sons off for what was supposed to be a supervised visit, Powell locked her out of the rental home, attacked his boys, ages 5 and 7, with a hatchet and ignited the home in a gas-fueled inferno.

Powell was the only person of interest in the disappearance of his wife, Susan Powell, from their home in West Valley City, Utah, in 2009. He was never arrested, and a month after she vanished he moved with his boys to Puyallup.