Fires that start in couches on porches and decks are a pretty big problem in off-campus housing. In April 2010, a student was killed in an off-campus house fire that started in a couch and there have been a lot of other fires that started in couches out on porches.
Since January 2000, Campus Firewatch (www.campus-firewatch.com) has found 33 incidents involving porches and nine of them were fatal ones, killing 20 people. This is 14% of all of the fire fatalities since 2000, a significant number.
Always seems to be the same scenario...the fire breaks out in the middle of the night, after a party, on a porch or deck. Since it is outside, smoke alarms (if the house has them) don't pick up the smoke and the alarm is sounded by someone passing by. By that time the fire has a pretty big head start and when it does move into the house through a window or door, it is really ripping. Now people are trapped or having to jump out of upstairs windows to get away.
The most common cause?
Where do the couches come from?
In a study done by Lt. Amy Brow from the Ann Arbor Fire Department of the area around the University of Michigan she found that most of the couches, by far, had been left by the previous tenant.
- Left by previous tenant: 86
- Donated by family or friend: 40
- Trash picked: 16
- Don't know: 3
A number of communities have passed ordinances banning couches because of their fire and health hazards (sitting in the rain and snow, month after month????). However, many still have not.
What can you do?
If you have a couch, what you MUST do is make sure that each night you check it to make sure there isn't a cigarette smoldering down in the cushion. Use real ashtrays when smoking out there, not improvised ones. Empty the trash OUTSIDE of the house. If someone put a smoldering cigarette butt in the trash, don't take it INSIDE the house, empty the trash outside, away from the house so that if it breaks out in the middle of the night it doesn't spread to the house.
Just be careful, ok?