The chance of experiencing a fire in your residential property is almost as unlikely as experiencing a plane crash—it’s a miniscule number of incidents that affect a tiny percentage of the population [see sidebar on page 14]. But fire-related tragedies are almost all preventable, and just like airline officials, fire fighting professionals are committed to bringing that statistic down to zero.
And with high-tech detection systems and increasing use of sprinklers, industry experts report that property damage and human injury and fatalities from fire have decreased steadily in recent decades.
Building and fire codes cannot save anyone from careless behavior, however. In condominiums and multi-family residences, the most common causes ofaccidental fires are candles, cigarettes and gas grills on decks or balconies.
Human behavior is where fire officialsbegin when considering fire safety. People make mistakes with gas grills, heaters and fireplaces that can result in fires or explosions.
As Brent MacAloney, fire chief in Westminster, Massachusetts, illustrates, “I’ve seen occasions where a homeowner is trying to get [a gas heater or burner] to ignite, and in the process is filling the interior space with gas… Then the furnace automatically kicks in and ignites… it can set off the whole house.”