Despite recent death, fire safety has improved

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- Gary Vaughn was mentally ill and homeless, but neighbors on Humber Street in South Memphis had known him for years and took care of him. On the evening of Sept. 28, they saw smoke and flames erupting from the abandoned house where he stayed. Several people rushed toward the house and found he was trapped inside.

Firefighters eventually arrived on the scene and brought Vaughn out. He was unconscious and died later at The Med from smoke inhalation.

While his death illustrates the horrific power of house fires, fatalities resulting from them are increasingly rare. Across the nation, fire deaths have dropped sharply in recent decades. Vaughn's death brought the number of fire fatalities in Memphis this year to three.

If current trends hold, fire officials say Memphis will see fewer fire deaths in 2013 than in any year on record.

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