AUGUSTA — The pandemic played a role in helping to push Maine’s fire deaths to the highest level since 2014, the state’s fire marshal said.

The number of fire deaths in 2021 was 27, three times the level of the safest year for fire deaths, 2010, when nine people died in blazes. The state’s worst year for fire deaths was 1967, when 70 people died.

The 2021 deaths were related to the pandemic as more people were staying home instead of going to work, Maine Fire Marshal Joe Thomas said.

David Goodell, who died in a house fire in August, hugs his granson James. Goodell was a family man, an avid baseball fan and a longtime carrier for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. Courtesy photo

More than a half-dozen of the house fires happened during daylight hours, which is an unusual time for a deadly fire, he said.

“The pure and simple fact is you have people in close proximity to where fires happen at a variety of times when people wouldn’t normally be at home,” Thomas said.

The Maine Department of Public Safety reported 17 homicides. Of those, five of the victims were babies and children.

The number of highway deaths dropped despite concerns about speeding and aggressive driving during the pandemic.

Highway deaths were on pace to be lower than the five-year average, with 149 fatalities as of last week, state officials said.

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