By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia fire officials say fewer people died in fires in 2012 than at any other time in the city’s history. But they’re hoping to get the number lower still.

When Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers joined the department, 38 years ago, he says fire deaths typically exceeded 100 per year. He says a strategy of prevention, through education and the distribution of smoke alarms, has gradually brought the number down to the 2012 record low of 25 fire fatalities.

“I’m happy, but I’m not resting on our laurels,” Ayers says. “We know there’s more to do. There’s 25 more people’s lives out there that can be saved.”

Two firefighters also died in 2012, which Ayers called “tragic.” He says continuing prevention efforts will prevent deaths of both fire fighters and civilians.

“We don’t want firefighters having to go out and fight a fire,” says Ayers. “Our charter says that we’ll reduce fires, that we’ll educate and that we’ll become a society that’s free from fire.”

Ayers urges anyone without a smoke alarm to call 3-1-1 and the department will provide one.