Published on September 1, 2017.

HOME FIRES

Tennessee

Date, Time of Alarm, Number of Deaths

August, 1:21 a.m., 10 deaths (two under age six)

Number of Stories, Occupancy Type, Construction Type

This was a one-story, single-family home of unprotected wood-frame construction with a floor area of 1,085 square feet (101 square meters).

Smoke Alarm and Other Protection Devices

There were no working smoke alarms in the home. There was evidence that there had been some but they were removed at some point prior to the fire. There was no automatic suppression equipment present.

Fire Origin and Path

Investigators reported that a short circuit in an electrical cord to a window air-conditioning unit in the family room caused this fire. The fire extended to plastic bags with clothing and spread throughout the room and home.

Contributing Factors and Victim Locations

At the time of the fire there were 10 occupants in the home. All 10 perished. Seven died at the scene and three were rescued and sent to the hospital where they died over the next few days. The fatalities included three adults, four juveniles, and three children, with two under age six. There were security bars on several of the windows but did not play a role in the deaths. Seven of the victims were located in three different bedrooms, two were located in an open area between the kitchen and living room, and one was located in the family room.

Maryland

Date, Time of Alarm, Number of Deaths

August, 11:55 p.m., seven deaths (one under age six)

Number of Stories, Occupancy Type, Construction Type

This was a three-story, garden-style, 13-unit apartment building of unprotected, ordinary construction that covered approximately 4,000 square feet (372 square meters). The building was occupied at the time of the explosion and fire.

Smoke Alarm and Other Protection Devices

There was a system of smoke alarms and manual pull stations in the building. The system was destroyed in the explosion and did not operate. There was no automatic suppression system within the building. There were unknown-type fire extinguishers available, but they were not used and were also destroyed.

Fire Origin and Path

A natural gas leak in the basement allowed the basement to fill with gas and an explosion occurred. The ignition source of the explosion is still undetermined and the investigation is ongoing.

Contributing Factors and Victim Locations

A second building of similar size and construction (but with 14 units) was also destroyed in the explosion. In addition, 26 civilians were treated for various injuries due to the explosion and fire and three firefighters were injured fighting the fire. The victims included five adults and two children, including one under age six. There was no information on the location of the victims, including which building they were in.

New York

Date, Time of Alarm, Number of Deaths

May, 3:50 a.m., six deaths

Number of Stories, Occupancy Type, Construction Type

This was a two-and-a-half-story single-family home of unprotected wood-frame construction that covered 792 square feet (74 square meters). The home was occupied by seven people at the time of the fire.

Smoke Alarm and Other Protection Devices

There was a single smoke alarm found. It did not operate and was missing a battery. There was no automatic suppression equipment present.

Fire Origin and Path

The fire broke out when carelessly disposed-of smoking materials ignited ordinary combustibles on an enclosed front porch and extended into the home when windows failed into the living area. The fire then extended up an open staircase to the second floor.

Contributing Factors and Victim Locations

One of the victims was attempting rescues when he died. He was located on the second floor when the fire broke out but was found on the first floor. The fire had blocked the exit. The other five were attempting to escape. Two of them were originally on the second floor and were also found on the first floor. It is believed that smoke blocked their exit. The other three were found in second-floor bedrooms. One person was severely burned while attempting to make rescues, but was able to flee the fire thinking others were following behind them. Two victims were adults and the other four were children.

Nebraska

Date, Time of Alarm, Number of Deaths

October, 12:05 a.m., six deaths (two under age six)

Number of Stories, Occupancy Type, Construction Type

This was a two-story single-family home of unprotected wood-frame construction that covered 2,174 square feet (202 square meters).

Smoke Alarm and Other Protection Devices

Neither smoke detection equipment nor automatic suppression equipment were present.

Fire Origin and Path

The fire began when a spark from a fireplace ignited nearby combustible materials in the living room.

Contributing Factors and Victim Locations

No additional information was reported.

Georgia

Date, Time of Alarm, Number of Deaths

October, 10:30 p.m., six deaths (four under age six)

Number of Stories, Occupancy Type, Construction Type

This was a one-story single-family mobile home of unprotected wood-frame construction that covered 840 square feet (78 square meters). It was occupied by six people.

Smoke Alarm and Other Protection Devices

There were no smoke alarms or automatic suppression equipment present.

Fire Origin and Path

The fire began at a wood-burning heater that was poorly installed and spread to a bedroom. No further information was reported on the installation or how ignition occurred.

Contributing Factors and Victim Locations

Factors listed by firefighters as being involved in the fire and spread included the home’s location in a rural area (extending the response time), and the poor installation of the heater. Two victims were located near the rear door, three were in a bedroom, and the last victim was located in a doorway to a bathroom. Two victims were adults and four victims were children under age six.

Alabama

Date, Time of Alarm, Number of Deaths

January, 11 p.m., five deaths

Number of Stories, Occupancy Type, Construction Type

This was a one-story single-family home of unprotected wood-frame construction. No information was reported on the area covered.

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.

Illinois

Date, Time of Alarm, Number of Deaths

January, 5:01 a.m., five deaths

Number of Stories, Occupancy Type, Construction Type

This was a two-story single-family home of unprotected wood-frame construction that was occupied by three adults and two children. The floor area was not reported.

Smoke Alarm and Other Protection Devices

There were smoke alarms present. The coverage and operation were not reported. There was no automatic suppression equipment.

Fire Origin and Path

The fire broke out in a first-floor common room when arcing occurred at an unknown-type electrical failure at a plug or cord. No information was reported on the fire spread.

Contributing Factors and Victim Locations

Firefighters had difficulties with entry into rooms on the second story due to clutter and the bodies of three deceased dogs. The five victims were asleep in second-floor bedrooms. Firefighters located the victims on a secondary search of the home. One adult male was located in one bedroom and the other four victims—two adults, one juvenile, and one child—were found in a second bedroom.

Virginia

Date, Time of Alarm, Number of Deaths

January, 3:13 a.m., five deaths (two under age six)

Number of Stories, Occupancy Type, Construction Type

This was a two-story single-family home of unprotected wood-frame construction with brick veneer that covered 3,278 square feet (305 square meters). The home was occupied by 10 people at the time of the fire.

Smoke Alarm and Other Protection Devices

There was evidence of smoke alarms being present but they did not operate and had been disconnected. There was no automatic suppression equipment in the home.

Fire Origin and Path

The fire started in an attached garage when a cigarette was improperly disposed of under a set of steps that led into the home and spread into the home through a utility room.

Contributing Factors and Victim Locations

The victims were three adults, all with mobility impairments, and two children under age six. Two adults were located on the first floor—one in a bedroom and the other in a hallway—and two children were located in a second-floor bedroom with an adult. In addition to the fatalities, two occupants also suffered serious smoke inhalation injuries, and two firefighters received burns.

Michigan

Date, Time of Alarm, Number of Deaths

January, 9:31 a.m., five deaths

Number of Stories, Occupancy Type, Construction Type

This was a two-story single-family home of unprotected wood-frame construction that covered 960 square feet (89 square meters) and was occupied by five people.

Smoke Alarm and Other Protection Devices

Smoke alarms had been installed but were disconnected. There was no automatic suppression equipment present.

Fire Origin and Path

The fire started in bedding next to a bed close to a heat source in a basement bedroom. The heat source was not reported. The fire did not spread out of the basement.

Contributing Factors and Victim Locations

On arrival firefighters found heavy smoke throughout the home with a fire in the basement. Firefighters were informed there were five people in the home so searches were performed on the first and second floors and both proved negative. As the fire was knocked down in the basement, a search located the five victims. Two victims were located in a bathroom and the other three were in bedrooms. The victims were four adults and one juvenile.

Pennsylvania

Date, Time of Alarm, Number of Deaths

April, 9:33 p.m., five deaths (one under age six)

Number of Stories, Occupancy Type, Construction Type

This was a two-and-a-half-story duplex of unprotected wood-frame construction. No information was reported on the area covered.

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.

Georgia

Date, Time of Alarm, Number of Deaths

October, 3:34 a.m., five deaths

Number of Stories, Occupancy Type, Construction Type

This was a two-story, 1,800-square-foot (167-square-meter) split-level single-family home of unprotected wood-frame construction.

Smoke Alarm and Other Protection Devices

There were smoke alarms in the home but they did not operate as the batteries had been removed. There was no automatic suppression equipment present.

Fire Origin and Path

The fire broke out when embers from a modified fire pit ignited wood decking on the rear wooden deck. The fire extended to the home’s siding and entered the living room through windows and the rear door. The fire then spread from the living room up the stairs to the second floor.

Contributing Factors and Victim Locations

All five adult victims were located on the second floor and were asleep when the fire broke out. Four of the victims were located in the master bedroom and one was located in a bathroom.

NON-HOME FIRES

California

Date, Time of Alarm, Number of Deaths

December, 11:24 p.m., 36 deaths

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

This was a two-story warehouse of unprotected, ordinary construction that covered approximately 5,100 square feet (474 square meters). The structure was being operated at the time as an artist collective divided into living and work spaces and a performance area.

Detection Systems and Suppression Systems

There was no automatic detection system present but firefighters found a smoke alarm in the debris. It was not known if it operated. There was no automatic suppression system present.

Fire Origin and Path

The cause of the fire has been listed as undetermined.

Contributing Factors and Victim Locations

Throughout the building there were living/work spaces and hallways built of numerous combustibles and at various heights. Also inside were a camping trailer and two recreational vehicles. There was a music event underway on the second floor at the time of the fire. Firefighters were alerted to the fire by 911 calls from occupants and people knocking on the doors of a nearby fire station. First-arriving firefighters found heavy smoke conditions. An interior attack was initiated, but due to high heat and zero visibility firefighters were withdrawn to a defensive attack. All the victims were adults and were found in various locations throughout the structure. All died of smoke inhalation.

Georgia

Date, Time of Alarm, Number of Deaths

March, 4:54 a.m., six deaths

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

This was a one-story dwelling being used as a makeshift boarding house. It was of unprotected wood-frame construction, covered 1,000 square feet (93 square meters) and was occupied.

Smoke Alarm and Other Protection Devices

Neither detection equipment nor automatic suppression equipment were present.

Fire Origin and Path

The fire began in a den and spread throughout the structure. The cause is listed as undetermined.

Contributing Factors and Victim Locations

All victims were adults. Three were located in a rear bedroom, one in a hallway, one in the kitchen, and one in a front bedroom.

California

Date, Time of Alarm, Number of Deaths

June, 7:30 p.m., five deaths

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

This was a two-story vacant office building. No information was reported on the type of construction or ground-floor area.

Detection Systems and Suppression Systems

No information was reported.

Fire Origin and Path

No information was reported.

Contributing Factors and Victim Locations

No information was reported.

California

Date, Time of Alarm, Number of Deaths

August, 5:00 a.m., four deaths

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

This was a one-story adult-care facility of unprotected wood-frame construction. No information on the ground-floor area covered by the building was reported.

Detection Systems and Suppression Systems

No information was reported.

Fire Origin and Path

No information was reported.

Contributing Factors and Victim Locations

No information was reported.

Pennsylvania

Date, Time of Alarm, Number of Deaths

May, 4:00 a.m., four deaths

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

This was a three-story dwelling that was being used illegally as a rooming house. The building was of unprotected, ordinary construction and covered 1,584 square feet (147 square meters). The building was occupied at the time of the fire.

Detection Systems and Suppression Systems

There was one smoke alarm and it operated. There was no automatic suppression system present.

Fire Origin and Path

The fire broke out when a carelessly disposed-of cigarette ignited a couch on an enclosed first-floor porch being used as a bedroom.

Contributing Factors and Victim Locations

No information was reported on why the victims were unable to evacuate when the alarm sounded. Two adult victims were located on the first floor, and the two children were located in a bedroom on the second floor. Four additional people suffered smoke inhalation, and one firefighter was injured.

Oregon

Date, Time of Alarm, Number of Deaths

August, 5:45 a.m., four deaths

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

This was a two-story motel. The number of units, as well as the construction type and area covered, were not reported.

Detection Systems and Suppression Systems

Due to ongoing litigation no information can be released.

Fire Origin and Path

Due to ongoing litigation no information can be released.

Contributing Factors and Victim Locations

Due to ongoing litigation no information can be released.

Colorado

Date, Time of Alarm, Number of Deaths

May, 1:30 a.m., three deaths (one under age six)

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

This was a one-story board-and-care home of unprotected wood-frame construction. No information was reported on the area covered.

Detection Systems and Suppression Systems

No information was reported.

Fire Origin and Path

No information was reported.

Contributing Factors and Victim Locations

No information was reported.

Pennsylvania

Date, Time of Alarm, Number of Deaths

February, 6:30 a.m., three deaths

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

This was a two-and-a-half-story dwelling being used as a rooming house. It was of unprotected wood-frame construction and covered 624 square feet (58 square meters). It was occupied at the time.

Detection Systems and Suppression Systems

There was a full coverage system of smoke/heat detectors present that operated. There was no automatic suppression equipment present.

Fire Origin and Path

This fire was intentionally set in living room furniture.

Contributing Factors and Victim Locations

The victims, all seniors, were trapped by the fire. There was no information reported on why the occupants did not escape given that the smoke alarms operated.

NON-STRUCTURAL FIRES

Texas

Date, Time of Alarm, Number of Deaths

July, 7:42 a.m., 16 deaths

Setting

This was a hot-air-balloon in flight with a pilot and 15 passengers.

Climate

The temperature was approximately 85 degrees F (29 degrees C), no rain, with winds 7–17 mph (11–21 kph).

Fire Origin and Path

The hot-air balloon caught fire after striking electrical transmission lines, then crashed to the ground on fire.

Factors Hindering Occupant Escape

All the victims were adults. No additional information was reported. The National Transportation Board is still investigating this incident. More information on this incident can be found online.

Tennessee

Date, Time of Alarm, Number of Deaths

November, 5 p.m., 14 deaths

Setting

This was a wildland/urban interface fire. The fire was intentionally set and located in a national park, and after five days near-hurricane-force winds blew the fire into residential areas and private lands.

Climate

On the day the fire started the temperature was 53 degrees F (12 degrees C), humidity was about 40 percent, winds were approximately 26 mph (42 kph), and rain was 0.17 inches (4.3 millimeters) for the month.

Fire Origin and Path

The fire was incendiary in nature.

Factors Hindering Occupant Escape

This fire burned for several days before high winds blew it into residential areas. By the time the fire was contained it had destroyed 2,460 structures, including 2,100 homes and 60 businesses, as well at 17,140 acres (6,936 Hectares). Fourteen people lost their lives; two were children, one was a woman in her 30s, and the rest were mostly seniors.