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Two costly fires in Springfield on Saturday due to household appliances: a reminder on fire safety

On a single Saturday, two house fires broke out in Springfield, both due to electrical and heating appliances left unattended. On the morning of August 9th at 653 State St, a fire started in a bedroom of an apartment complex, when an electric iron was heated and left unattended on a bed, blazing the bed sheets and mattress before spreading into the rest of the room. Fire Commissioner Joseph Conant said that when they arrived, “the room was gutted by flames.” The family whose apartment caught on fire and a neighboring family were evacuated from the complex.

On Saturday also but in the afternoon another fire was reported at the apartment complex on 119 Ashley St. The residents left a curling iron on, which then burned through the counter and set fire to the bathroom. Damages are estimated at $10,000 and $15,000. No injuries were reported, though the two occupants were displaced to a different apartment complex.

The two similar incidents remind us all to be wary of potential fire hazards at our homes. Unfortunately, house fires are very common in the United States. Between 2007 and 2011, the National Fire Protection Agency reported 366,600 house fires. The resulting financial and personal consequences cannot be ignored. During this time frame, on average, seven people died in U.S. home fires every day; indeed, most fire-related deaths happen at home.

According to the NFPA, cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the United States; two of every five starts in the kitchen. From 2007 to 2011, cooking-related fires caused a national average of 400 deaths, 5,080 reported civilian injuries, and $853 million in direct property damage per year. Malfunctioning or unattended heating equipment is the second largest reason for house fires. Between 2007 and 2011 heating equipment-related fires caused 400 deaths, 1,520 injuries, and $893 million in direct property damage –a larger sum than that of cooking-related fires.

Aside from the kitchen, the bedroom is the most frequent place that catches on fire, giving rise to tremendous damages and deaths. Fires beginning in the bedroom were associated with 84% of civilian deaths, 83% of injuries, and $382 million of property damage in households. As in the case with the State St. fire, bedroom fires most commonly start and spread by a mattress or bedding igniting.

What usually causes mattresses to catch on fire? Above all, smoking and falling asleep on the bed, though leaving abandoned or discarded smoking objects around it, placing heating equipment too close to it, and playing with heat sources, candles, lighters, matches and heating equipment in the bedroom are also common ways to start a mattress fire.

As expected, age determines the probability of getting injured from a fire. Younger people are more likely to start a fire with a lighter, candle or match. Children under age 5 are almost one and a half times as likely to die in a home fire as the general public. Adults older than 75 are more likely to be victims of smoking-related fires, and three times as likely to die from a fire than the general public. Males have a higher chance of being injured in a house fire, though this statistic does not account for the firefighter profession, which is mostly male dominated.

In order to lessen the risk of fires at home, here are some safety tips the NFPA recommends for preventing house fires:

• Never smoke in bed, as you can easily fall asleep with a burning cigarette, igniting the mattress or bedding.
• Teach your children at the earliest possible age that matches and lighters are tools for adults only, not toys. Store matches and lighters up high, out of the reach of children, preferably in a locked cabinet.
• Turn off portable heaters when you leave the room or go to sleep.
• Make sure emergency exits at home are not blocked, and that the house is not too cluttered, so that the family can easily leave in case of a fire.
• Check regularly and report any electrical malfunctions.
• Check periodically for proper functioning of your smoke detectors. Two thirds of all fires take place at homes lacking working smoke detectors.
• Do not leave heating and cooking appliances, such as irons, pressure cooking pots, coffee makers and microwaves unattended, while using them.
• Before leaving the house, double check that all electric and heating appliances are turned off.

To learn more about household fires and how to prevent them, click here.

House fires may give rise to costly damages, injuries and even death. Many a time a home fire results and spreads because of malfunctioning appliances or lack of proper fire safety measures in the rented living complex. If your apartment or home regrettably catches on fire, you might be able to compensate for damages by holding the appropriate parties accountable. For instance, the manufacturer of a faulty household appliance or the manager of an apartment complex that lacks proper fire exits and smoke detectors may be responsible for some household fires. To support your case, you will need expert legal representation by your side. We invite you to call our veteran Fire-Related Personal Injury Attorneys at our Boston offices. With 50 years of experience at our family-oriented legal firm, we will work relentlessly by your side to obtain the benefits you deserve. At Altman & Altman, LLP, we are committed to best serve our clients’ legal needs. We make ourselves available anytime, and will meet you at your most convenient location to discuss your case. For your free initial consultation, please call our Boston office today.