Multiple death fire in a home built in 2010, with working smoke alarms

Blog Post created by ryan.quinn Employee on Mar 13, 2012

http://auburnpub.com/news/local/woman--year-old-die-in-auburn-house-fire/article_5be4c810-6be8-11e1-b6df-001871e3ce6c.htmlAuburn homeAuburnpub.com reports that a 38-year old woman and her 2-year old goddaughter were killed in a duplex fire late Saturday night. The home was equipped with working smoke alarms but no fire sprinklers.

According to the report the fire was discovered by the occupant of the second unit when she came home from work shortly after 11 p.m. She reported hearing the smoke alarm sound, seeing light smoke, and smelling gas. Firefighters found a small fire contained to the kitchen. The investigation has concluded; the fire started in the stove and was ruled accidental.

ChildkilledinAuburnFire units arrived at the house just three minutes after getting the call and found the two victims near the kitchen, unresponsive. Despite valiant efforts to revive them, they were pronounced dead at the hospital. It could all have been different, had fire sprinklers been installed in the home.

The home was built in 2010 according to a source from the property management office of the Albert Heights subdivision, were the home is located. The homes are equipped with wired, interconnected smoke alarms.

Smoke alarms have done a good job providing early warning. The fire death rate decreased after they were mandated in new home construction, but people continue to die at unacceptable rates. Fire sprinklers control, or may put out the fire; providing the additional escape time that occupants may require, specially high risk groups; older adults, young children, and persons with disabilities. The risk of dying decreases by about 80 percent when sprinklers are present.  Fire sprinklers also provide a safer environment for firefighters.

Opponents of residential fire sprinkler systems like to boast that newer homes are safer homes and that the fire and death problem is limited to older homes.  Age of the home is a poor predictor of fire death. NFPA statistics show higher fire death rates are seen in states with larger percentages of people who possess one or more of the following characteristics: are black, poor, smoke, have less formal education, or who live in rural areas. A fire in a new home a is just as deadly as the same fire in an older home.

New methods of construction and modern home contents negatively impact life safety. In 2008, Underwriters Laboratories® (UL) conducted a study. The findings of the report, Structural Stability of Engineered Lumber in Fire Conditions, point to the failure of lightweight engineered wood systems when exposed to fire. The same UL study found that the synthetic construction of today’s home furnishings add to the increased risk by providing a greater fuel load. Larger homes, open spaces, increased fuel loads, void spaces, and changing building materials contribute to:

  • Faster fire propagation
  • Shorter time to flashover
  • Rapid changes in fire dynamics
  • Shorter escape time
  • Shorter time to collapse

ABC affiliate News Channel 9 covered a candlelight vigil to celebrate the lives of the two victims, held Sunday night. The sentiment shown during the vigil underscores the emotional impact of a fatal fire on communities. It starts with the family of the victims, who must live with the loss of their loved ones. What an incredible loss for the parents of that little, pretty girl. The entire neighborhood will mourn the loss of a neighbor and friend. Firefighters on the scene must deal with the emotional toll their entire lives.

Unfortunately, we continue to see politics and profits trump life safety in a number of states that have prohibited jurisdictions from mandating this minimum model code requirement for new one- and two-family dwellings. What is it going to take? How many people will have to die before fire sprinklers are installed in all new homes?

Maria Figueroa