January through March Most Dangerous Time for Fires

February 21, 2013

795380_house_fire_lightened_smoke_and_rain.jpgIn January 2012, home fire deaths totaled 124. This year, the number of fatalities rose to 148. Burn injury lawyers at Pintas & Mullins remind the public that January through March is the most dangerous time of the year for home fires, and fires kill more Americans each year than all natural disasters combined.

It may come as a surprise to some that home fires are most prevalent during the winter months. Take into consideration, however, that this season brings abundance in the use of candles, space heaters, fire places, and an increase in cooking at home.

According to the United States Fire Association (USFA), about two-thirds of all fire deaths happen in homes without any working smoke alarms. One such incident occurred on January 8th, 2013 in Georgia. In this case, four young children, all under the age of seven, were killed in a house fire. None of the smoke detectors in the house were working.

The Smoke Detector Act was enacted in 1998, and requires all homeowners to install and maintain working alarms on each floor of the residence. Oftentimes, builders and landlords looking to save a few dollars skimp on smoke alarms, which endangers not only the family living, there, but the surrounding community as well.

Smoke detectors warn residents of a fire at its first signals, giving them valuable time to escape. Older adults and children are the most at risk of being seriously injured in a fire, and constitute more than half of home fire deaths. If a fire starts in a home without smoke alarms or sprinklers, it can spread rapidly to other homes and residences, causing harm to many more people. The resident of the original fire, then, could be held liable for any and all medical bills and damages to property.

In January and March of 2012, two fires started in western Kansas rental homes. Because the residences were rented, it was the landlord's responsibility to ensure that the smoke detectors were working and properly maintained. The landlord in this instance claimed to be ignorant to the Smoke Detector Act, and did not install detectors in any of his 300 rental properties. The first fire killed a mother and her two daughters. A few months later in March, a second fire killed a mother and her three young children. Families of the seven fatalities have filed wrongful death lawsuits against the landlord.

Fires can also be started by an array of conditions, including defective wiring and appliances, such as ovens and microwaves. In Minnesota, a defective oven started a fire that killed a family of three people, and their loved ones recently filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the oven's manufacturer. When filing a lawsuit of this type, skilled house fire attorneys and fire experts will investigate the scene to determine what the cause of the fire was through the fire arc and pattern. This information, along with eyewitness testimony, enables plaintiffs to prove in court that defective equipment or wiring caused the fire. Each fire is unique, so hiring a home fire lawyer with a team of experts is crucial to obtaining justice for injured loved ones.

Other parties that may be held liable for home fires include builders or contractors of the home, electricians or their employers, propane and gas companies, and manufacturers of flammable furniture and fire alarms.

The USFA recommends that every household have a pre-determined comprehensive fire plan and practice a fire escape route. The agency also recommends keeping anything that can catch fire at least three feet from the flame and never using an oven to heat your home. Make sure all vents are clear of snow and ice, and have your heating systems and chimney serviced each year by a qualified professional.

At least 80% of fire deaths occur in home fires, so taking all precautions to prevent them is crucial to your family's safety. Home fire attorneys at Pintas & Mullins urge home owners to visit the USFA website to find details about reducing the risks of home fires.