By Emil Danielyan
The number of people killed in various fires registered across Armenia has shrunk nearly by half this year, a government agency in charge of fire-fighting said on Friday.
According to data released by the Armenian Rescue Service, fires killed 20 people from January through November, down from 34 such fatalities recorded during the same period in 2006. Most of the victims were residents of Yerevan.
The Rescue Service reported a more than 20 percent fall in the overall number of fires, saying that the Armenian fire-fighters dealt with 908 such incidents in the course of 2007. It said most of them were caused by a negligent use of fuel and electrical stoves and other appliances. Only 31 of the reported fires were deemed serious by the agency.
It also emerged that Armenian prosecutors turned down most of the Rescue Service’s petitions to launch fire-related criminal proceedings. Criminal investigations are currently underway into a total of such 28 incidents. The firefighters believe that some of them to have resulted from arson attacks.
With the New Year holidays approaching, the Rescue Service further urged Armenians to exercise caution in adorning Christmas trees with lights and inflammable objects. In a statement, the agency issued detailed guidelines on how to avoid accidentally setting fire to those trees.