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

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

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

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 the lower than the five-year average, with 149 fatalities as of earlier in the week, state officials said.

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