Fires in 2013 killed 23 persons, including a fireman

Fire fighters say that 23 persons, including one of their own, died in blazes in 2013.

The dead fireman was Andrés Cruz Castro, who was trapped by a forest fire. Reports at the time said that he was probably suffocated by thick smoke.  The March fire consumed at least 300 hectares in Cerro Tárcoles en Turrubares. That is about 740 acres of trees and underbrush.  He was a volunteer.

Five person each died in two emergencies during the year. One was the explosion and fire at a small eating spot in Barrio El Carmen de Alajuela. The cause was a gas leak.

Five persons also died in a Puriscal hotel fire.

The Cuerpo de Bomberos noted that the agency handled a record number of calls and that 1,077 were structure fires. Investigations showed that 22.4 percent or 48 of these were set deliberately, said the agency. In all, fire investigators looked into 214 cases.

The leading cause of structure fires continues to be the electrical systems with the second most frequent cause being some type of electrical appliance. Cooking fires are third.

Many of the Costa Rican homes have out-of-date wiring and electrical service. In addition, in many low income neighborhoods, the electrical work is done by amateurs and consists of a maze of wires not fully protected by appropriate fuses or breakers.

Several major fires that destroyed dozens of homes in 2013 eventually were blamed on improper wiring.

The fire agency urged Costa Ricans to seek an examination of the electrical service in their home or business every three years.

They also urged residents to only allow experts to hook up bottled gas service.

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