There have been three apartment fires in our area in about 72 hours. An apartment building is built to house multiple families. Most apartment...

There have been three apartment fires in our area in about 72 hours. An apartment building is built to house multiple families. Most apartment buildings are outfitted with a sprinkler system, designed to extinguish or keep the fire in check, while building occupants have the opportunity to escape. The problem with an apartment fire is that a fire in one apartment can affect many different families. I have written many times about the absolute necessity for those living in an apartment to have renters insurance. Many times, people have escaped from these fires with nothing but the clothes on their backs. If you have read my articles for any period of time, I write a lot about the possibility and probability of a fire occurring. The possibility always exists, but usually, the probability is relatively low. In an apartment setting, the probability goes up simply because of the increased number of people.

The first fire involved the third and fourth floors of one building. This fire is under investigation, with no determined cause at this point. Pets were lost in this fire. Although there was a sprinkler system in place, the fire rapidly got ahead of the sprinkler system. This could mean that the fire started in an area that is not covered by the sprinkler system. Whatever the case, the fire did extensive damage, destroying all that some of the occupants owned. This fire displaced 35 people. 

The second fire started in the kitchen of one apartment. The sprinkler system activated, keeping the fire in check, but did water damage to two apartments. If I read right, this fire displaced 3 people. Cooking-related fires still constitute the number one cause of residential fires in America. 

The third fire involved an older building with a construction type known as balloon-frame. A building like this has no fire stops in the walls from floor to ceiling. In other words, this building probably had no sprinkler system unless retrofitted with one. Many of these buildings have a basement. In cases of fires that start in lower levels, once a wall is penetrated, the fire races to the attic. The previously mentioned buildings were, most likely, lightweight construction, indicating truss roofs and truss or laminated I-beam flooring. This third building was built much stronger, but age and other things could cause problems.

In addition to a sprinkler system, every apartment must be outfitted with an adequate number of working smoke alarms. Even though it is the apartment manager’s responsibility to check smoke alarms monthly, you should check them periodically yourself. Do not put the lives of you or your family in the hands of anyone else. Your landlord has a huge responsibility, but so do you. Smoke alarms, sprinkler systems and a practiced home escape plan are all designed to get you and your family out of the building safely. A practiced home escape plan should include your pets as well. If you live in a second-, third-, or fourth-floor apartment, then you may need a rescue ladder. 

If you live in an apartment or condominium setting, then you need to do your part to prevent a fire. The difficult thing is that you have to depend on the others that live in your building to be just as conscious of fire safety. I will say again: make sure that you have renters insurance that protects your belongings from fire and water damage. Many people live in multi-family residential settings. Do everything necessary to protect your family and your belongings.