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Condominium Fires – Is it Safer Living in Single Detatched Housing

As I prepare for each blog posting, I inevitably come across stories of “man dies in condo fire” and “One dead in Tampa condominium fire.” It seems that every evening I’m learning of more fire related deaths in condominiums.

The US Fire Administration has some amazing numbers, and they provide good news and bad news in a recent report.

Multifamily residential dwellings (apartments, townhouse, row houses, condominiums and other tenement properties) are generally safer than one and two family dwellings when it comes to fire – with only 3.0 deaths/1000 fires compared to single/two family dwellings with 6.5 deaths/1000 fires.

The downside is, if the fire spreads (isn’t confirmed to its point of origin) multifamily deaths reach 9.6/1000 fires, with injuries reaching 82.0/1000 fires. That’s about 1.5 times as many deaths, and 3 times as many injuries.

It’s a complex report (please read it) – and it appears that multifamily dwellings are more prone to fires (being 27% of the reported fires), but this might be due to higher reporting. In multifamily dwellings there is generally a more active and monitored smoke and fire response system, often tied into the city fire system. The stove top fire (57.5 of all multifamily fires) may be reported more often because of neighbours experiencing smoke.  This reporting likely happens less frequently with single family dwellings.

The big issue to me is regarding non-confined fires. As soon as that fire leave the stove, the garbage room, the mechanical item breaking down, death per 1000 fires jumps from 0 (seriously, zero deaths with confined multifamily dwelling fires) to 9.6. It means if a fire gets going, it gets going bad.

For large multifamily dwellings it might seem inconvenient to run fire testing every year – gaining access to all units, running that annoying bell over and over for a day or two. But it’s really important to ensure rapid response of the fire department, and the evacuation of the residents, if that fire ever spreads from the kitchen, or the bbq, or wherever the originating source is.