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Causes of Apartment Fires

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Whether you know it or not, you put an enormous amount of trust in your neighbors when you move into an apartment. You trust that they are careful and they know what will cause a fire. The reality is a fire in an apartment building or condo can cause more loss of life than a fire in a house because more people usually live in an apartment building than a house, and since the walls are all attached, the fire can spread more easily.

FEMA reported that cooking, heating, carelessness, open flame, smoking and appliances were some of the top causes of residential building fires in 2018. Fortunately, many (but not all) of these fires can be prevented.

Cooking fires cause 50% of all residential building fires. This can happen in a variety of ways—leaving a stovetop unattended while something is cooking, forgetting to turn a burner off when something is done cooking, grease fires and things near the oven or stove catching fire are all causes. The best way to prevent cooking fires is to keep a watchful eye on things cooking in the kitchen and don’t wear loose clothing that can ignite on a burner.

Grilling on a wood balcony is not a good idea--especially if you're using a charcoal grill instead of a gas grill. Wind could knock a small grill over and cause a big fire! Most apartment complexes won't allow residents to grill on a wood balcony for this very reason.

Some apartments have wood burning fireplaces. If yours does, and you want to use it, ask the building’s management if the chimneys are cleaned regularly. If so, it’s safe to start the fire. When it’s out and you dispose of the ashes, make sure they are completely cooled and don’t put them in paper or plastic bags or any kind of container that can catch fire (just in case the ashes haven’t cooled down as much as you thought). In addition, keep anything combustible at least three feet away from the fireplace.

Some people use space heaters for extra warmth in their apartments, and to save money on heating, but this can be very dangerous. If your apartment uses natural gas heating, what you save on your gas bill will be offset by the high cost of running an electric space heater. If your apartment is all electric, you won’t be saving money because a space heater uses a lot of electricity. If you decide to use a space heater anyway, place it on a non-combustible surface in a spot where it is not easily turned over.

Open Flame
Candles can make an apartment feel more cozy and add ambiance to a room, but most people use them to make spaces smell good. However, it’s easy to forget a candle is lit, which can sometimes lead to problems. Never leave a candle in a room where it’s unattended, and don’t keep a lit candle near anything that can catch on fire. Finally, always remember to extinguish the candle before you leave your apartment or go to bed.

Not only is smoking bad for your health, it can also be bad for your apartment building. Many people smoke in bed, which can be dangerous because if you fall asleep with a lit cigarette, you can ignite the bed and ultimately the rest of the apartment. If your bedding grazes the ashtray at night when the ashes are still hot or the cigarette is not put out completely like you thought it was, this can also cause a fire. Never keep ashtrays near anything that can catch fire.

Appliances and Electronics
If you ever watched the TV show “Friends,” you might remember when Rachel and Phoebe were roommates for a short period of time. There was a fire in their apartment caused by a hair straightener. Many appliances like irons, curling irons and hair straighteners come with an automatic off feature, meaning they will turn themselves off after a certain period of time, but that may not be enough. As an extra measure of safety, unplug these appliances after use and let them cool down away from anything around them that could catch fire.

Appliances aren’t the only things that can cause fires. Today’s cell phones and tablets can produce a lot of heat while charging, and have been known to catch on fire. For this reason, you should never leave a phone on your bed or other soft or combustible surface while it charges, and never leave it unattended when you charge it.

We hope you are never in a situation where the place you live is damaged by a fire, but if you are, and you have renters insurance, it can help replace your things and help with the cost of additional living expenses while your apartment is being restored.

Now that you know what some of the most common causes of apartment fires are, share this article with your roommates or other friends who also live in apartments.  The more everyone knows about the causes of apartment fires and how to prevent them, the safer you will be in your apartment.

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