Published on September 1, 2015.

2014 CATASTROPHIC MULTIPLE-DEATH FIRES BY TYPE

Home Fire Deaths

KENTUCKY

Date, time of alarm, number of deaths
January, 2:01 a.m., nine (two under age six)
Number of stories, occupancy type, construction type
This was a one-story, 1,000-square-foot (93-square-meter), single-family home of unprotected wood-frame construction. The home was occupied by 11 people.
Smoke alarm and other protection devices
There were no smoke alarms or automatic suppression equipment present.
Fire origin and path
The fire began in a ground-floor front bedroom when a portable electric baseboard heater ignited combustibles near a futon bed. The fire then spread to a master bedroom, into the ceiling attic area, and subsequently throughout the home.
Contributing factors and victim locations
On arrival, firefighters found the home totally engulfed in flame with a man and his daughter outside and burned. Five victims were located in a closet in the master bedroom and the other four victims were located in the room of origin. The fire blocked both means of egress.

NEW YORK

Date, time of alarm, number of deaths
March, 9:31 a.m., eight
Number of stories, occupancy type, construction type, operating status
This incident involved two five-story, mixed-occupancy buildings with businesses on the ground floors, including a church, and apartments on upper floors. Each building covered 2,000 square feet (186 square meters). The apartments were occupied but it was not reported if there was anyone in the church or businesses.
Detection systems and suppression systems
No information was reported on detection or suppression equipment.
Fire origin and path
A call to the gas company from a neighbor in the next building reported an odor of gas. The explosion occurred about 30 minutes later before the arrival of the gas company and was believed to have originated in the basement of one of the buildings. The explosion demolished the original building and the second similar building.
Contributing factors and victim locations
Firefighters from a nearby fire station self-dispatched upon hearing the explosion and seeing smoke. As firefighters arrived, they were met with a chaotic scene, with backed-up vehicle traffic hindering response, many fleeing people in the street and on sidewalks, a large debris field covering the street in some places, and a large active gas fire in the debris and remaining structure. Firefighters searched demolished vehicles parked on the street, searched the structures, and fought the fires that were burning. Several victims found alive were assisted out of the debris or structures. The victims that died were found in many areas throughout the debris pile. In addition to the eight fatalities, 61 people were injured, including 46 civilians, 12 police officers, two firefighters, and one contracted worker.

MASSACHUSETTS

Date, time of alarm, number of deaths
July, 3:59 a.m., seven
Number of stories, occupancy type, construction type
This was a three-story, mixed-use, 6,300-square-foot (585-square-meter) structure of unprotected wood-frame construction. The first floor contained commercial property and there were nine apartments on the upper stories. The apartments were occupied but it was not reported if anyone was in the commercial property.
Smoke alarm and other protection devices
There were heat and smoke alarms in the common areas and hallways above the ground floor. No information was reported on equipment on the ground level. There was no automatic suppression equipment.
Fire origin and path
The fire was caused by an electrical malfunction in a wire chase within a void between the second floor ceiling and third floor flooring. The fire spread undetected through the void space for several minutes. It then spread through additional void spaces through the third floor to the ceiling and roof. The fire then spread across the entire building in the roof area.
Contributing factors and victim locations
The seven victims were located within two apartments on the third story: two in one apartment and a family of five in another apartment at the opposite end of the building.

INDIANA

Date, time of alarm, number of deaths
February, 9:10 a.m., six
Number of stories, occupancy type, construction type
This was a one-story, single-family home of unprotected wood-frame construction. The ground floor area was not reported.
Smoke alarm and other protection devices
No information was reported.
Fire origin and path
No information was reported.
Contributing factors and victim locations
No information was reported.

NEW JERSEY

Date, time of alarm, number of deaths
June, 3:51 a.m., six
Number of stories, occupancy type, construction type
This was a two-and-a-half-story, single-family home of unprotected wood-frame construction. The ground floor area was not reported.
Smoke alarm and other protection devices
No information was reported.
Fire origin and path
No information was reported.
Contributing factors and victim locations
No information was reported.

NORTH CAROLINA

Date, time of alarm, number of deaths
August, 1:07 a.m., six
Number of stories, occupancy type, construction type
This was a one-story, 840-square-foot (78-square-meter) manufactured home of unprotected wood-frame construction.
Smoke alarm and other protection devices
There were no smoke alarms or automatic suppression equipment present.
Fire origin and path
Due to the destruction of the home, no cause or origin could be determined.
Contributing factors and victim locations
No additional information was reported.

PENNSYLVANIA

Date, time of alarm, number of deaths
October, 6:42 a.m., six (two under age 6)
Number of stories, occupancy type, construction type
This was a two-and-a-half-story, single-family home of unprotected wood-frame construction. The ground floor area was not reported.
Smoke alarm and other protection devices
No information can be released pending an active investigation and legal action.
Fire origin and path
No information can be released pending an active investigation and legal action.
Contributing factors and victim locations
No information can be released pending an active investigation and legal action.

TEXAS

Date, time of alarm, number of deaths
December, 6:30 a.m., five
Number of stories, occupancy type, construction type
This was an 11-story apartment building of fire-resistive construction. The number of units and ground-floor area was not reported.
Smoke alarm and other protection devices
There was complete smoke detection coverage throughout the building. Detectors on three floors above the fire were taped over due to painting in hallways. It was not reported if the alarms in the room of origin or floor of origin sounded. There was a wet-pipe sprinkler system only in the basement.
Fire origin and path
The fire of undetermined cause broke out in a third-floor apartment and spread to the hallway.
Contributing factors and victim locations
There was heavy smoke throughout the building. The fire doors to the stairwell were taped open on the three floors above the floor of origin. A delay in calling the fire department occurred when a resident attempted to assist a person yelling for help in a third-floor apartment. (It is not known if this was the apartment of origin.) Unable to gain access, the resident went to the lobby for help, then returned to the third floor and called 911.

OKLAHOMA

Date, time of alarm, number of deaths
January, 4:56 a.m., five
Number of stories, occupancy type, construction type
This was a one-and-a-half-story, 868-square-foot (80-square-meter), single-family home of unprotected wood-frame construction.
Smoke alarm and other protection devices
Neither smoke alarms nor automatic suppression equipment were present.
Fire origin and path
A fire of undetermined cause originated on an enclosed rear porch. Fire and smoke spread into a kitchen through a door and window that failed. The fire then spread into the living room and a bedroom, as well as into the attic. Smoke spread throughout the rest of the home.
Contributing factors and victim locations
Two victims were located in a bedroom. There were indications that one of them might have broken out a window in an attempt to escape. The other three victims were located in a second bedroom. The home was reported to have bars on the windows and a broken door knob on the front door. It was not reported if these contributed to the deaths or not. The fire also blocked egress from the rear door that led to the enclosed rear porch.

IOWA

Date, time of alarm, number of deaths
January. 3:33 a.m., five (two under age 6)
Number of stories, occupancy type, construction type
This was a one-story, 1,048-square-foot (97-square-meter), single-family home.
Smoke alarm and other protection devices
No information was reported on smoke alarm or suppression equipment.
Fire origin and path
The cause and origin were not determined due to the extensive damage done by the fire.
Contributing factors and victim locations
On arrival, firefighters found the home fully engulfed in fire, with the roof already burned away. Firefighters made a defensive attack. After extinguishment of the fire, the five victims were located. A woman and infant were located in a bedroom, two adult males were located in the living room, and a child was located in a separate sitting area.

MINNESOTA

Date, time of alarm, number of deaths
February, 5 a.m., five (three under age 6)
Number of stories, occupancy type, construction type
This was a two-story, 2,400-square-foot (223-square-meter), two-family dwelling of unprotected wood-frame construction.
Smoke alarm and other protection devices
There were smoke alarms present but it was not reported if they operated. There was no automatic suppression equipment present.
Fire origin and path
A fire of undetermined cause broke out in a second-floor living room.
Contributing factors and victim locations
The fire burned up from the second floor. Part of the stairway was burned out. Two victims were located on the second floor and three were located on the third floor.

LOUISIANA

Date, time of alarm, number of deaths
November, 12:20 a.m., five
Number of stories, occupancy type, construction type
This was a two-story, single-family home of unprotected wood-frame construction. The ground floor area was not reported.
Smoke alarm and other protection devices
There were no smoke alarms or automatic suppression equipment present.
Fire origin and path
The fire of undetermined cause broke out in a first-floor bedroom.
Contributing factors and victim locations
No information was reported.

TEXAS

Date, time of alarm, number of deaths
November, 5 a.m., five (one under age 6)
Number of stories, occupancy type, construction type
This was a one-story, 1,200-square-foot (111-square-meter), single-family manufactured home of unprotected wood-frame construction with metal siding.
Smoke alarm and other protection devices
There were no smoke alarms or automatic suppression equipment present.
Fire origin and path
A fire of undetermined cause broke out near a front door and spread to the living room, then to a hallway by the bedrooms.
Contributing factors and victim locations
The exits were blocked by fire. Air conditioning units in the windows of the bedrooms made those inaccessible to the children. Arriving firefighters reported rescue attempts were impossible due to heavy fire; three-quarters of the home was involved. Three additional people were injured.

NEW JERSEY

Date, time of alarm, number of deaths
December, 6:08 a.m., five (one under age 6)
Number of stories, occupancy type, construction type
This was a two-and-a-half-story, single-family home of unprotected wood-frame construction. The ground floor area was not reported.
Smoke alarm and other protection devices
No information was reported.
Fire origin and path
No information was reported.
Contributing factors and victim locations
No information was reported.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Date, time of alarm, number of deaths
December, 12:33 a.m., five
Number of stories, occupancy type, construction type
This was a two-story, 17,000-square-foot (1,579-square-meter) apartment building of unprotected wood-frame construction with 16 units.
Smoke alarm and other protection devices
There were smoke alarms present. Their operation and coverage were not reported. There was no automatic suppression equipment present.
Fire origin and path
A fire of undetermined cause broke out in a first-floor apartment. No additional information was reported.
Contributing factors and victim locations
Upon arrival, firefighters attempted an interior fire attack and rescue attempts. As conditions inside the structure deteriorated, a defensive attack was initiated.

Non-Home Fires

MAINE

Date, time of alarm, number of deaths
November, 7:17 a.m., six
Number of stories, occupancy type, construction type, operating status
This was a three-story rooming house of unprotected wood-frame construction. The ground floor area was not reported. There were at least eight occupants in the building at the time of the fire.
Detection systems and suppression systems
There were smoke alarms present and they operated. Their coverage was not reported. No information was reported on automatic suppression equipment.
Fire origin and path
This fire broke out on a porch due to careless use of smoking materials near a plastic cigarette butt container. The fire spread upward through the structure to the attic where it burned the roof.
Contributing factors and victim locations
The fire blocked the egress from the second and third floors. There were no fire stops within the roof structure, allowing the fire to spread horizontally from end to end.

NEW JERSEY

Date, time of alarm, number of deaths
March, 5:42 a.m., four
Number of stories, occupancy type, construction type, operating status
This was a two-story motel of unprotected wood-frame construction that was operating at the time of the fire. The ground floor area was not reported.
Detection systems and suppression systems
No information reported.
Fire origin and path
No information reported.
Contributing factors and victim locations
No information reported.

KANSAS

Date, time of alarm, number of deaths
October, 9:50 a.m., four
Number of stories, occupancy type, construction type, operating status
This was a one-story, 60,000-square-foot (5,574-square-meter) flight safety building that was operating and occupied.
Detection systems and suppression systems
It is not reported if there was a detection system or automatic suppression system present. It was reported that detectors would not have made a difference due to the type of incident.
Fire origin and path
Shortly after takeoff, a twin-engine aircraft crashed into the wall and roof of the flight safety building. The aircraft slid across the roof where the fuel cells leaked jet fuel and caught fire instantaneously. At the same time, burning jet fuel ran down into the building.
Contributing factors and victim locations
One of the victims was the pilot who was found on the roof within part of the aircraft. The other three were in a flight simulator on the ground level inside the building.

TEXAS

Date, time of alarm, number of deaths
December, 10:18 a.m., three
Number of stories, occupancy type, construction type, operating status
This was a 50-story office building of fire-resistant construction. The building was occupied at the time of the incident. No information was reported on the building floor size.
Detection systems and suppression systems
No information was reported on detection equipment. There was a complete wet-pipe sprinkler system. The system was in the area of the explosion and fire and three sprinkler heads operated. Information on their effectiveness was not reported.
Fire origin and path
An unknown type gas exploded in the basement where three workers were located.
Contributing factors and victim locations
The workers were using welding/cutting equipment in a tank in the basement of the high-rise office building. They were trapped and died before they could be rescued.

OKLAHOMA

Date, time of alarm, number of deaths
December, 1:00 a.m., three
Number of stories, occupancy type, construction type, operating status
This was an oil drilling site.
Detection systems and suppression systems
No information reported.
Fire origin and path
No information reported.
Contributing factors and victim locations
No information reported.

Non-Structural Fires

CALIFORNIA

Date, time of alarm, number of deaths
April, 5:45 p.m., eight
Setting
Northbound interstate highway.
Climate
Temperature was approximately 70 degrees F (21degrees C), clear/dry, visibility was 10 miles (16 km).
Fire origin and path
As a result of a three-vehicle crash involving a car, a bus, and a truck tractor with two 28-foot (9-meter) trailers, the truck and bus caught fire.
Factors hindering occupant escape

The exact cause of the crash was not reported. The truck was occupied by the driver and the bus was occupied by the driver, 43 high school students, and three adult chaperones. The car had two occupants. The truck crossed the center median from the southbound lane and entered the northbound lane, striking the car. Both the truck and the car then struck the bus, and the truck and bus caught fire.

A total of 10 people died in the incident, eight of whom—the truck driver, the bus driver, and six of the bus passengers—died in the fire. In addition, two people died of multiple blunt-force injuries. Of the people who were killed in the fire, one died of thermal injuries and seven died of inhalation of products of combustion. The incident also injured 41.

For more information, see the National Transportation Safety Board reports online.

MASSACHUSETTS

Date, time of alarm, number of deaths
May, 9:40 p.m., six
Setting
Airport runway.
Climate
Clear, 44 degrees F (6.7 degrees C), winds were calm and visibility was 10 miles (16 km).
Fire origin and path
A two-engine passenger jet with a crew of three (including two pilots and a flight attendant) and four passengers aboard attempted to take off. The aircraft used the entire length of the runway without obtaining any elevation. The aircraft then traveled across a grassy area into a tree line, where it hit a ravine, broke up, and caught fire. The seven people aboard the aircraft were trapped and all were killed.
Factors hindering occupant escape
Six people died in the crash as a result of fire or smoke inhalation, and the cause of death for the seventh person was undetermined. The cause of the crash is still under investigation. Read the preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board online.

ALABAMA

Date, time of alarm, number of deaths
January, 11:22 a.m., three
Setting
A travel trailer located at a campground.
Climate
No information reported.
Fire origin and path
No information reported.
Factors hindering occupant escape
Upon arrival, firefighters found the travel trailer fully involved with fire with the three victims still trapped inside.

LOUISIANA

Date, time of alarm, number of deaths
November, 6:30 p.m., three
Setting
The crash involved two pickup trucks on a state highway.
Climate
The temperature was about 60 degrees F (16 degrees C), fair, and just after sunset.
Fire origin and path
The fire was ignited by the hot engine of a vehicle following a two-vehicle crash. The fire engulfed the vehicle occupied by the victims.
Factors hindering occupant escape
The three victims were trapped in the vehicle following the crash.