August 1st, 2018, Minneapolis, Minnesota:
As you’ve read these blogs, I hope you’ve noticed that they are created to respond to the needs we find in our industry. Lately, we’ve had increased calls from multi-family complexes to service apartment units after a fire has occurred.
Whether it’s an apartment, condo, or senior living community, fire prevention service calls by professionals BEFORE fires are necessary to keep people and property safe and buildings compliant because fires can be catastrophic.
From 2013 to 2015, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reported an estimated 110,000 multi-family residential building fires in the U.S. each year. These fires caused an estimated 400 deaths, 4,000 injuries, and $1.4 billion in property loss.
It probably doesn’t surprise you that cooking is the number one cause of multi-family residential fires, accounting for 74 percent. Of these, 93 percent were small, confined fires with limited damage. Causes were mostly unattended cooking, deep fryers, and combustibles like paper and towels too close to a cooking surface.
Smoking is another cause. While smoking-related fires accounted for only two percent of all residential building fires, they were a leading cause of civilian fire deaths: 14 percent. Approximately 7,600 smoking-related fires in residential buildings occur each year in the U.S. Sixty-seven percent of the non-confined residential building fires occurred because of abandoned or discarded smoking materials, mostly cigarettes. The bedroom was the leading area where the fire started (24 percent).

Portable space heaters placed too close to combustibles (including beds) are also frequent causes of fires. FEMA stats from 2013 to 2015 estimate 1,650 portable heater fires in residential buildings caused an estimated 90 deaths, 175 injuries, and $84 million in property loss.


As a resident in a multi-family complex, you have to do your part in fire prevention. Education, paying attention to your surroundings, and taking steps to increase safety and prevent fires are keys in protecting property and saving lives. To help you determine hazards and how to handle them, Brothers Fire & Security developed a fire prevention checklist.

  • Have you ever heard of the “3 Foot Rule”? It’s easy to remember. Keep all combustibles (papers, cloth, furniture) at least three feet away from stoves, fireplaces, portable heaters, hot plates, and space heaters. Also, keep portable heaters at least three feet away from walls
  • Keep combustibles and clutter away from hot water heaters and all appliances, including dishwashers, which have heating coils
  • Replace furnace filters monthly as part of routine
  • Notify your property management company if something isn’t working. For example, older appliances can malfunction
  • Make sure your smoke detectors and fire alarms work
  • Have a fire extinguisher near the stove (check it annually)
  • Develop an escape plan in your apartment
  • Be aware of the building’s safety features and escape plan
  • Renter’s insurance may have to kick in if the fire is caused by renter’s negligence

Even though cooking, smoking and space heaters are common causes of fires, there are other hazards:

  • Open flames and candles
  • Power strips that are cheap and get overloaded; check to see if they are hot to the touch
  • Electrical cords that are frayed or damaged
  • Computer, cell phone, and other electronic chargers that get too hot
  • Curtains or other flammable materials close to electrical outlets
  • Window air conditioners that are dirty or blocked
  • Building air conditioners that are covered in cottonwood or other matter
  • Clogged dryer lint screens and vents
  • Saunas that are not well maintained
  • BBQ or outdoor cooking units under wooden overhangs or decks. Sparks can fly from the BBQ to the boards on the deck and catch fire. Concrete is best option for outdoor cooking
  • Older apartment buildings that are not well maintained. Wood dries out which makes it more flammable
  • Neighbors who smoke
  • The heat of the summer causes more drain on electrical wiring
  • The heat of the summer also increases the chances of car fires (consider underground parking)

Check this list frequently to be on the lookout for fire hazards. You might spot a problem that could prevent a costly and tragic fire.


As one of the premier providers of fire and security solutions in the Upper Midwest, Brothers Fire & Security strives to build long-term, value-added relationships. We work with business owners and property management companies, as well as all types of public institutions to solve fire and security needs. By taking advantage of our integrated bundled services, many of our clients find that they can save 25-30% on their safety services, annual inspections and more. From a single location to franchises throughout the region and the country, our integrated approach saves our clients valuable time, money and stress. We provide fire protection systems, security systems, fire sprinkler systems, fire alarm systems, 24-7 monitoring, fire extinguishers, card access and kitchen hoods.