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What Are the Most Common Causes of Apartment Fires?

What Are the Most Common Causes of Apartment Fires?

Typical Causes of Apartment Fires

According to data from the U.S. Fire Administration, residential fires occur three times more often than nonresidential fires, and residential properties include one- and two-family dwellings, multifamily homes like apartments, hotels/motels, dormitories, and halfway houses. Apartment fires can lead to a variety of injuries that range in severity, such as lung damage, permanent nerve damage, fractures, broken bones, amputations, severe burns, disfigurement, and even death. They can also lead to a lot of property damage and loss.

While some apartment fires can be caused by natural causes, such as the sun’s heat, spontaneous ignitions, lightning or storms, and static discharges, other apartment fires are caused by negligent actions. Common causes of apartment fires include:

  • Appliances & other equipment malfunction/misuse. Household appliances, especially space heaters, often cause apartment fires. Heaters (and other appliances) that are left unattended may catch fire if left plugged in or powered on, and they may also cause a flammable item (within three feet of the device) to catch fire.
  • Cooking accidents. Cooking-related fires are not often caused by bad cooks. These fires often involve combustible items around/in the kitchen catching fire. These items can include (but are not limited to): dish towels and rags, curtains, plastic bags, wallpaper, and food wrappers. Cooking fires can also occur if ovens, stovetop burners, and other heat-building appliances are left on and unattended.
  • Defective heating units. Similar to space heaters, heating units can cause fires if they have electrical or other mechanical issues.
  • Electrical issues. If there is an electrical issue in your building’s wiring or in an extension cord you have in your unit, a fire can occur because of those issues. Landlords and building owners should take the time to ensure that their building is up to code and that electrical wiring is checked when needed. Tenants should also avoid overloading their outlets and using cables that have broken or removed prongs.
  • Fireworks. Fireworks cause thousands of fires and injuries every year, especially around the holiday season. It is also important to note that only some fireworks are legal to have in New Mexico, such as flitter sparklers, ground spinners, illuminating torches, cone fountains, crackling devices, cylindrical fountains, and ground and handheld sparkling devices.
  • Intentional fire setting. Arson, which occurs when a person maliciously or willfully starts a fire or causes an explosion hoping to destroy or damage property, is also a common cause of apartment fires. In addition to criminal charges, an arsonist can face civil consequences for the damages caused by an intentional fire.
  • Open flame. November 1st is national scented candle day, and while many people love these candles and the warmth they bring to their homes, these candles and other open flames can lead to dangerous fires.
  • Playing with heat sources. Children and sometimes adults can cause a fire if they play with fire or other heat sources. For instance, playing around with a lighter or trying to do magic tricks with flammable materials can have serious consequences.
  • Smoking. While the act of smoking does not cause fires, unattended cigarettes do. If a person falls asleep while smoking or leaves a lit cigarette around flammable material, a fire can easily start.
  • Storage of combustible material. If a person keeps a large amount of combustible materials (i.e. wood, paper, plastics, rubber, cooking as, charcoal, oil-based paint, etc.) in their apartment for a project, hobby, work, or another reason, they risk having an apartment fire start in their unit.

5 Things to Do If There’s a Fire in Your Apartment Building

For your safety, before a fire occurs, you should consider what routes you can take to safely and swiftly exit your building if the fire alarms ring or you smell smoke. Your apartment building manager or leasing office agents should also make you aware of the fire safety features and safety exits.

If an apartment fire does occur and you notice fire or smoke in your building or unit, you should take the following five steps to protect yourself (and your family).

  1. Stay calm. While your initial instinct may be to run, gather your family and a few possessions, and exit the building, take a moment to take a calming breath and asses the environment. You could be putting yourself in danger if the fire has spread close to your unit.
  2. Call 911. As soon as you see or smell smoke, you should call emergency services. They can help you determine whether you should stay put or move, and they can help firefighters find you in your building.
  3. Stay low to the ground. Whether you decide to leave or stay put until help arrives, you should stay low as smoke and heat rise. If you stay put it is also important to cover your head and hair with a wet towel and try to avoid breathing in too much air. Smoke inhalation can cause fatal lung damage. If you move, you should also close all the doors as you exit and avoid using an elevator.
  4. Stay put if you can’t leave or are safe. If your apartment is not at risk or near the fire, you should stay where you are and place wet towels or bedding under your door. Cover any vents as well. It is also important to note that if you are outside when the fire occurs, stay put and allow first responders to do their job.
  5. Seek medical attention once you are safe. You should be seen by EMTs and/or medical professionals after an apartment fire. As we mentioned, smoke inhalation can cause serious health complications, and you may suffer other injuries because of fleeing crowds, trips, etc.

Injured in an Apartment Fire? Consult with Our Firm.

Michael Doyle, Attorney at Law is dedicated to helping clients recover compensation after they’ve been injured due to negligence. If you or a loved one are injured in an apartment fire, we can review your case and help you understand your legal rights. Our attorney can also help you establish liability, understand what renters’ insurance may cover, and focus on your recovery as they handle the case legalities. We work on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay us unless we help you recover compensation.

To schedule a free consultation, call (505) 219-2176 today.


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