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Outside Smoking Fires Are Tough On Apartment Complexes

September 28, 2011

We had one of these last week.  Post Falls had one on September 21.  The City of Spokane had one on August 10.  Fires started by smokers outside of apartment complexes are destroying more of the building.  In Spokane’s fire, 24 apartments were damaged.  In the Post Falls fire, 20 residents were displaced.

As more and more people recognize the hazards of smoking indoors, smokers are pushed outside to smoke.  If they don’t take care in discarding of the smoking materials, a fire ensues.  Inside apartment buildings, individual units are separated by sheetrock walls.  Fire walls are built in to compartmentalize the building and slow or block the spread of fire.  Fire walls only work on the inside of the building however.

What we see in these three incidents is fire on the outside of the building climbing the exterior walls clear to the eaves.  As the fire travels up the exterior it breaks out windows and gets into each unit it encounters on the way up.  Once in the eaves, the fire moves into the attic space.  Interior fire walls do little good in this scenario.

I don’t have all the facts on how the smoking-related fires started in Spokane or Post Falls.  In our case however, we know that the smoker disposed of his cigarette in the ‘soil’ of a potted plant on the ground floor patio.  That ‘soil’ was mostly bark and moss.  It ignited a couple of hours after the cigarette was ‘extinguished’.  The fire ran up the wall and into the deck above.  With sliding glass windows on each deck, this building was headed toward extensive damage when a neighbor spotted the fire and sounded an alarm.

Remember, the inside of your apartment complex has construction features to slow the spread of fire and compartmentalize a structure fire.  That gives you time to get out.  Fires started on the exterior of the building will bypass those construction features and spread much more quickly.  If you have smokers, ensure they dispose of smoking materials properly; in a glass or ceramic ash tray that is emptied regularly.

That will help ensure that you, your family, and your neighbors have a place to sleep tonight.

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From → Fire Prevention

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