As a fire accident attorney in Los Angeles who has represented victims of fires in both residential and commercial structures, I can tell you that these cases are heartbreaking. Large scale infernos or even small house fires can cause major injuries and, too often than not, death to the inhabitants or occupants due to burns and burn related injuries, smoke inhalation, structural collapse and many other mechanisms causing bodily harm or mortality. Trying to conduct an investigation into the cause of the ignition and whether the fire source was the result of negligence or deliberate wrongdoing (such as arson), is arduous work which requires both legal and technical expertise.
Main Causes of Fires in Urban and Suburban Areas Like Greater Los Angeles
In large urban areas with a heavy concentration of residential (homes, apartments and condos), commercial (offices) and industrial buildings, fires can be started any number of ways. However, the main sources of ignitions or combustion tend to be the following:
- Appliances or Equipment: Conflagrations that can be traced back to equipment or appliances account for a large portion of fires every year. Causes range from faulty design or manufacturing of the electrical components, poor maintenance or other factors. The types of equipment ranges from kitchen cooking appliances such as stoves or ovens, heating apparatus like space heaters or central heating and air conditioning like HVAC, computer or other electronic devices, torches, burners, soldering or welding gear, clothes washers or dryers, or any other device which has an electrical power source or creates a heat source.
- Chemicals: Chemicals capable of combustion are all around us in urban environments. They range from industrial manufacturing chemicals to everyday cleaning supplies.
- Electrical: Electrical failures or malfunctions account for a huge amount of structural fires every year. In fact, in 2011 (the latest data available from the U.S. Fire Administration), almost 50,000 household fires could be traced to some type of electrical problem and electrical sources of ignition were seen as a cause or partial cause of almost 18,000 non-residential fires in the U.S.
- Smoking Materials: Cigarettes, cigars, and other forms of smoking materials are sources of many residential fires including those in multi-unit buildings such as apartment and condominium complexes.
- Arson: Unfortunately, arson (including youth fire setting) still accounts for a portion of fires every year.
Legal Investigation of Fire-Related Injury and Death Claims
Fire accident scenes are, in a word, chaotic. Fire suppression activities can disturb or sometimes even destroy critical evidence. This makes it sometimes very difficult to trace the source of ignition. However, there is a science to this type of investigative work. Attorneys employ experts like forensic engineers to review evidence recovered from the scene, photographs of the scene, and an inspection of the fire scene itself to determine causation. Standards such as the the National Fire Prevention Association Codes and Standards are used to determine both the cause of the fire and whether the blaze was the result of civil and/or criminal negligence. For example, standards exist for the installation and maintenance of electrical equipment, placement of fire extinguishers/sprinklers/smoke alarms and other safety equipment, use of fire retardant materials in certain products and construction materials, standards for the handling and use of combustible materials and many other codes which set forth ways in which fires or fire related injury or death can and should be prevented. Tying the cause of a blaze to a violation of one of these types of codes or standards can help to prove legal liability.
Necessity of Retaining A Personal Injury Law Firm Familiar with Fire Negligence Claims:
Due to the complexity of the needed inspection, review and analysis of fire accident data, it is crucial to consult and retain a law office who can employ the proper resources to get the bottom of what happened. Time is of the essence in these types of legal claims. Legal theories of liability can range from negligence in the construction or maintenance of the property, product defect claims for appliances or equipment, or other conduct which falls below a reasonable standard in the operation of a business or the care and upkeep of a commercial, industrial or residential structure. Steven M. Sweat, APC has over three decades of combined experience representing fire injury victims and the families of persons killed in infernos in and around Los Angeles and throughout California. For a free consultation or advice, contact our toll free injury helpline at 866-252-0735 or in the L.A. area call 310-433-2280.