October 1, 2008

Apartment Fire Started After Ashtray Emptied

By Tremblay, Kenneth

PENNSYLVANIA-A fire that began when an ashtray emptied into a trash can ignited its contents damaged an apartment in an eight- story building for low-income older adults. Fortunately, the detection systems worked as designed and alerted occupants. The steel-frame building, which was 150 feet (46 meters) long and 70 feet (21 meters) wide, had concrete block walls, poured concrete floors, and a metal-over-steel roof covered with rubber and crushed stone. There were local smoke alarms in the apartments and interconnected, hard-wired smoke detectors with pull stations in the common hallways. A wet-pipe sprinkler system provided coverage only in the hallways.

The fire started when the resident of a third-floor apartment emptied an ashtray containing a smoldering cigarette into a trash can before leaving the apartment. The cigarette eventually ignited the trash can's contents, and the fire spread throughout the apartment.

A maintenance person called 911 at 9:09 a.m. Responding firefighters extinguished the fire, which had activated a sprinkler in the hallway.

Smoke damaged floors four through eight, and water damaged floors one through three. The total loss was estimated at $1 million. One firefighter suffered a minor injury.

Copyright National Fire Protection Association Sep/Oct 2008

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