There have been three different fires, in three different localities in the past week. All three were in multi-family dwellings, with one being a duplex. The immediate lesson that we learn is that we have a lot of work to do in the area of fire prevention and fire safety. Two of these fires resulted in the injury and death of occupants, while the third displaced many other occupants. My hope is to remind the readers of this article that we must be vigilant in our efforts to prevent fires from occurring on the one hand, while on the other, ensuring that detection devices are in place as well.
The first fire took place in an apartment complex, displacing not only those in the fire apartment, but others throughout the building. The fire was reportedly caused by an electrical malfunction in an upstairs storage room. With the exception of an occupant that might have known about the problem and had not reported it, this type of fire is hard to prevent and is usually not detected until it gets outside of the room where it started. This could have been a problem that went on for days or weeks before the fire occurred. Thankfully, if I heard right, everyone was able to safely escape the building. I will offer a reminder to those of you living in apartments, get renter’s insurance.
The second fire occurred in a duplex. The only indication of a cause offered thus far is that it may have been smoking related. This was an early morning fire where police officers entered the duplex and removed the occupant who died, as a result of the fire. In looking at the pictures of smoke that exited through the front door and front window, my assumption was that was where the fire probably started, in that front room. My unofficial opinion is that the occupant may have been smoking and might have fallen back asleep. This scenario plays out often, with working smoke alarms in place. The problem is that the victim is intimately involved with the fire and smoke. If a person is lying on a couch or bed that catches fire, their chances of being overcome by smoke, heat and toxic gases render them incapacitated quickly.
The third fire took place in another apartment complex. If I heard the cause right, this fire was tied to candles. This was another fire where a bystander entered the burning apartment and assisted the victim to safety. The apartment occupant was injured in this fire. Whatever this person was doing, another fire occurred in a multi-family setting, where more than this one person was affected. Properly placed and operating smoke alarms are the best means of early detection of fires in single-family and multi-family dwellings.
Each of these fires had devastating results. One fire fatality is one too many, and one fire-related injury is one too many as well. Can fires be prevented? Our track record says no. Whose job is it to make sure that smoke alarms work properly? Landlords – yes. Occupants - yes. Firefighters - yes. Will you have to endure the hardship of a fire in your home or the injury and/or death of a family member before you will realize the magnitude of this problem? Think about it.