Published on September 1, 2016.

2015 CATASTROPHIC MULTIPLE-DEATH FIRES BY TYPE

Home Fire Deaths

RESIDENTIAL

NEW YORK

Date, Time of Alarm, Number of Deaths

March 21, 12:23 a.m., 7 deaths

Number of Stories, Occupancy Type, and Construction Type

This was a three-story, 1,000-square-foot (93-square-meter) single-family home of unprotected wood-frame construction. The home was occupied by a family of nine at the time the fire broke out.

Smoke Alarm and Other Protection Devices

There was one smoke alarm in the basement. It operated but was ineffective due to being below the level of the fire. There was no automatic suppression equipment present.

Fire Origin and Path

The fire broke out in the first-floor kitchen when a hot plate on the counter, left on during Sabbath observances, ignited nearby combustibles. The fire extended to cabinetry, the wall, and into a family room and dining room, then through open doors to a hallway and up to the second-story bedrooms.

Contributing Factors and Victim Locations

The seven victims died in bedrooms on the second floor. The mother attempted to rescue the children but was driven out by heat and smoke. She and one daughter escaped but were treated for burns and smoke inhalation. The victims were aged 16, 13, 12, 10, 8, 7, and 5.

MARYLAND

Date, Time of Alarm, Number of Deaths

January 15, 3:31 a.m., 6 deaths

Number of Stories, Occupancy Type, and Construction Type

This was a two- and three-story, 16,386-square-foot (1,522-square-meter) single-family home of ordinary construction. The home was occupied by a family of six at the time the fire broke out.

Smoke Alarm and Other Protection Devices

There was an alarm system present. The system activated and alerted an alarm company that in turn notified the fire department. Minutes after the alarm activated, several 911 calls were received from neighbors. There was no automatic suppression equipment present.

Fire Origin and Path

The fire is believed to have started in the great room when an electrical failure ignited plastic and the tree skirt under a 15-foot (4.5-meter) Christmas tree.

Contributing Factors and Victim Locations

It took investigators several days to locate and recover the bodies from under much of the collapsed home. Five of the victims were located in debris of the three bedrooms, and the sixth body was located in the great room. The victims were aged 63, 56, 8, 8, 7, and 6.

OHIO

Date, Time of Alarm, Number of Deaths

January 6, 4:17 a.m., 5 deaths

Number of Stories, Occupancy Type, and Construction Type

This was a one-story, 1,200-square-foot (112-square-meter) single-family home of unprotected wood-frame construction and was occupied at the time the fire broke out.

Smoke Alarm and Other Protection Devices

No information was reported on detection or suppression equipment.

Fire Origin and Path

The only information reported is that the fire broke out in multiple areas with multiple heat sources.

Contributing Factors and Victim Locations

The five victims and two that were injured were reported to have been asleep at the time the fire broke out. The victims were aged 54, 43, 22, 22, and 1.

KENTUCKY

Date, Time of Alarm, Number of Deaths

October 20, 2:30 a.m., 5 deaths

Number of Stories, Occupancy Type, and Construction Type

This was a three-story, single-family home (referred to here as Building 1) of unprotected ordinary construction. The size of the home was not reported. This home was attached by an enclosed porch to a two-unit home (referred to here as Building 2). The construction and size of this building was not reported. Both homes were occupied at the time the fire broke out.

Smoke Alarm and Other Protection Devices

There were smoke alarms present in Building 1, the building of origin. It was reported they activated with a delay as they were not near the fire’s point of origin. There were no alarms in Building 2. There was no automatic suppression equipment present in either building.

Fire Origin and Path

The fire of undetermined cause broke out on an enclosed porch on the ground floor between the attached buildings. The fire spread from the porch through a window into the dining room of Building 2 and spread rapidly through both buildings.

Contributing Factors and Victim Locations

An elderly man was found in a first-floor bedroom of Building 1, and a woman and three of her children were found in a bedroom on the second floor of Building 2. The victims were aged 68, 36, 10, 3, and 1.

NON-RESIDENTIAL

CALIFORNIA

Date, Time of Alarm, Number of Deaths

December 13, 6:44 a.m., 5 deaths

Number of Stories, Occupancy Type, Construction Type, Operating Status

This was a one-story, 1,200-square-foot (112-square-meter) vacant single-family dwelling of unprotected wood-frame construction. There were six squatters in the building at the time the fire broke out.

Detection Systems and Suppression Systems

There was no automatic detection or suppression equipment.

Fire Origin and Path

The fire broke out on the first floor at the point of egress, a window in the back living room. The cause was undetermined.

Contributing Factors and Victim Locations

This vacant dwelling was boarded up with plywood, which had been pulled partially away from a window in the back of the building. Entrance and exit was through this window. The fire broke out inside the building at this window and spread through the room, blocking the victims’ escape. The five victims died or were injured in two bedrooms. A sixth person and three firefighters were injured. The victims were aged 56, 37, 36, 34, and 28.

CALIFORNIA

Date, Time of Alarm, Number of Deaths

April 25, 5:30 a.m., 3 deaths

Number of Stories, Occupancy Type, Construction Type, Operating Status

This was a one-story tire shop. The ground floor area and construction type were not reported. There were three people in the business at the time of the fire.

Detection Systems and Suppression Systems

No information was reported on detection or suppression equipment.

Fire Origin and Path

No information was reported on the cause or origin.

Contributing Factors and Victim Locations

One firefighter was injured fighting this fire. The ages of the victims, all adults, were not listed.

WASHINGTON

Date, Time of Alarm, Number of Deaths

August 19, 2:30 p.m., 3 deaths, all firefighters

Setting

Wildland/urban interface fire.

Climate

This was a hot and dry day with the area in extreme drought conditions.

Fire Origin and Path

The cause of this fire was trees in contact with power lines.

Factors Hindering Occupant Escape

When the wind shifted, the firefighters were attempting to escape the fire in their apparatus when it left the road in zero visibility and went down an embankment. One other firefighter was injured in the crash. The victims were aged 31, 26, and 20.

NON-STRUCTURAL

OHIO

Date, Time of Alarm, Number of Deaths

November 10, 2:55 p.m., 4 deaths (all on the aircraft)

Setting

This incident involved a small business jet aircraft with seven passengers and two crew members. The aircraft crashed into a four-unit apartment building and instantly caught fire.

Climate

No information was reported.

Fire Origin and Path

The aircraft crashed into the second story of a four-unit apartment building and JP-4 fuel caught fire immediately.

Factors Hindering Occupant Escape

The fire burned the aircraft and apartment building and spread to two other buildings. The medical examiner’s office reported that four of the nine occupants of the aircraft died of inhalation of products of combustion and/or thermal injuries, and the other five died of multiple blunt force trauma. The report did not indicate if the victims were passengers or crew. The ages of the four victims were not reported, but they were all adults.

CALIFORNIA

Date, Time of Alarm, Number of Deaths

September 12, 1:24 p.m., 4 deaths

Setting

Wildland/urban interface fire. Fuels included conifers intermixed with hardwoods, Manzanita, and chamise.

Climate

The temperature at the time was 88 degrees Fahrenheit (31 degrees Celsius), relative humidity was 12 percent, winds 18 miles per hour (29 kilometers per hour) with gusts of 30 miles per hour (48 kilometers per hour).

Fire Origin and Path

The cause and origin are undetermined at this time.

Factors Hindering Occupant Escape

This fire burned 76,067 acres (30,783 hectares), destroyed 1,958 structures, including 1,200 homes, 27 multi-family properties, 68 commercial properties and 585 minor structures. Another 93 structures were damaged. The four victims died in different locations in the fire area. Three were in their homes and one was located outdoors near his car. Four firefighters deployed their shelters but were injured. The ages of three of the victims were 72, 69, and 66. The fourth victim, whose age was not reported, was an adult.