Kitchen-Fire-linkThe lead story on today’s local evening news covered another in a recent string of apartment fires in the San Antonio, Texas area.  As I listened to interviews with apartment residents whose lives had been impacted in a sudden, terrible way, I was struck by the notion that apartment fires are occurring with increasing frequency.  It seems as though we see a major apartment fire on the news every couple of weeks.  On a national scale, however, the data show that apartment fires are less numerous than in the past.

Data collected by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) from 1980 to 2011 shows that apartment structure fires in the U.S. reached a low of 84,500 in 2000, compared to 143,500 in 1980.  From 2001 through 2010 the numbers varied between 88,000 and 98,500.  There were 95,500 such fires in 2011.  Thankfully, fatalities have gradually decreased as well.  The death toll in 1980 was 1,025 compared to 415 in 2011.

Cooking is the cause of nearly 50 percent of fires in apartments, just as it is in one and two-family dwellings.  Arson ranks a distant second, at about 10 percent.  Other leading causes are smoking, open flames (including candles) and faulty appliances.  Most fires (more than 90 percent) are confined to the pan, fryer, or other cooking vessel and cause very little damage.  The 5 or 6 percent of unconfined fires account for nearly all of the property loss.  Statistics from the U.S. Fire Administration show that about half of the unconfined fires involve grease, oil, or animal fat and about three quarters of all fires start on a range or stove.  The most common causal factor for these fires, by far, is unattended cooking equipment.

Whether you live in an apartment, a duplex or a single family dwelling, you should be aware of the risks related to cooking, paying close attention to items on the cooktop.  Make sure that the smoke detectors in your living unit are operational by testing them periodically and changing the batteries at least twice a year.  Mount a multipurpose fire extinguisher (rated for A, B and C-type fires)  in a visible and accessible location that is not too close to the stove.  Finally, protect yourself financially by carrying homeowner’s or renter’s insurance.  Talk to your independent agent about the policy that’s best for you. Taking these precautions  can help safeguard the lives, property and resources not only of your family, but also of your neighbors.

8 responses to “Fire in Apartment 2B? Check The Stove!”

  1. Years ago I managed a hotel that contained about 10 apartments. On several occasions tenants started cooking and then fell asleep while the food was cooking causing a small fire (usually in a fry pan). Fortunately we had monitors in the hallways as well as a central fire alarm system. On one occasion an alert desk clerk noticed the smoke on the monitors even before the alarm system went off. It is a dangerous and scary situation that could have turned into a tragedy. The common denominator…Young men who had been out drinking, came home, decided to cook & then fell asleep. Alcohol & fire are never a good combination!

    1. Shari:

      Thank you for sharing your experience. I had not even considered inattention caused by drowsing off, but I’ll bet it is fairly common. Thank goodness for smoke detection and an attentive manager!

  2. Its amazing how many small fires are caused by neglegence… falling asleep with the cooker on, even going to watch tv and forgetting about the food. Think it needs to be preached how people need to be more aware.

    1. Lucy: Thanks for your comment. I agree that awareness should be increased. I suspect local fire departments are reaching some young people (who can develop awareness and good habits early) through school and community events. It would be wise for apartment managers to remind new and existing tenants about the hazards and consequences.

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