- February 26, 2020
- Attorney Matt Stoddard
- Premises Liability
It’s been a rough winter for fire safety in Georgia, full of injuries and loss. Spring is almost here, but that will come as little comfort to the many residents who’ve already been affected by fires in their apartment complexes over the past few months.
Two days after Christmas in Smyrna, nine people lost their homes to an apartment complex blaze. One of the survivors escaped with burns, and another was injured while jumping from her balcony. Three days later in Duluth, a fire engulfed the top floor of an apartment complex and caused it to collapse. Again there were fall injuries as residents jumped to escape, and a total of 29 people were displaced. Just two more days after that, on New Year’s Day, another fire broke out in a Macon, damaging four units.
Georgia Is One of the Most Dangerous Places in the Country for Fire Deaths
Of the fifty states, Georgia’s rate of death by fire is the fifth highest, and more than 50% higher than the national average. Within the state, people living in impoverished areas, predominantly non-white areas, and areas with a high percentage of residents with disabilities are much more likely to become the victims of residential fires.
In other words, people who have limited housing options, or who corporate interests view as easy to take advantage of, end up suffering the consequences of poor maintenance in their buildings.
The Holidays Exacerbate the Problem, but It Continues Year-Round
The winter holidays are the most dangerous time of year for residential fires, with 160 fires per year originating from Christmas trees, plus heightened risks associated with other decorations, candles, fireplaces, festive cooking, and fireworks.
In Duluth, the fire that cost 29 people their homes was ultimately found to have started with teenagers setting off fireworks and then accidentally setting them down a wooden surface without fully extinguishing the remains.
Taking fire safety precautions is crucial, especially around the holidays, but this doesn’t detract from the responsibility of landlords to maintain buildings in reasonably fire-safe condition. A firework spark in one unit shouldn’t have been able to spread far enough to collapse the whole upper floor before help could arrive, for example, and Christmas tree fires, when they do happen, are often related to electrical problems in the buildings themselves.
The holidays also don’t account for how many apartment fires there have been this winter, so one can’t expect the changing of the seasons to solve the problem, even temporarily. The fire in Macon, though it occurred on New Year’s Day, had nothing to do with fireworks or other holiday activities; a resident had gotten up early to make breakfast and fallen asleep while cooking.
Already, the apartment fires have continued past the reach of most winter festivities, with one in Southwest Atlanta and one in Norcross happening on back-to-back days in the middle of January. A woman, child, and infant had to be rescued from the Atlanta fire and taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation, along with one of the responding firefighters.
If you or your family have been affected by Georgia’s apartment fire problem, call The Stoddard Firm to learn about how we can help.