For some, a garage is simply a place to park a car, perhaps a bit more climate-control and security than an open parking slot. For others, a garage is an extension of the home, a place for storage and engaging in hobbies from exercise to woodworking, scrapbooking to auto repair. No matter the use, garage safety is important. Garage fires are particularly dangerous and surprisingly common. Prevention is (as always) best, but when a garage fire occurs our Oakland fire injury law firm takes a close look at the facts in the context of the law to determine who is at fault and who may be owed compensation.
Fire Consumes Oakland Garage, Spreads to Home
The San Jose Mercury News reported on a weekend fire in Oakland that destroyed two cars and left two people displaced. The fire started in the garage of the Marr Avenue home and two residents were able to escape the home before firefighters arrived. Before the Oakland and Piedmont firefighters gained control, the blaze consumed the entire garage and spread to the house and attic. Thankfully, no one was injured, but fire officials estimate the damage will exceed $150,000 and say the home will need work before it is habitable. Officials say the cause remains under investigation, but it appears accidental and may have involved a malfunction involving the natural gas system.
A Common Threat: Examples and Statistics
Focusing on last weekend alone, an internet search reveals multiple garage fires endangering homes and lives across the nation (the following are only a sample of the results!). In Montana, The Great Falls Tribune reports that a Saturday night garage fire spread to and destroyed a mobile home. Also on Saturday, a space heater fire in a
Southern California garage caused minor injuries and $100,000 in damage according to the San Diego Union Tribune. Unfortunately, injuries also resulted from a New Jersey fire that, according to WPVI, officials believe began when a medical emergency led to a car overheating in the garage. Both the driver and another person in the residence were treated at a local hospital.
So, turning to the numbers, just how common are garage fires? According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s U.S. Fire Administration (“USFA”), there are around 6,600 garage fires in U.S. homes each year, about 18 per day. Each year, garage fires leave approximately 30 people dead and 400 injured, resulting in $457 million in property loss. The overwhelming majority, 93%, occur in one- or two-family homes.
Preventing Garage Fires
The USFA reports that electrical malfunction such as shorts, damaged/frayed wires, and overloaded power outlets are the leading cause of garage fires in the U.S. Among the steps you can take to prevent garage fires, the USFA recommends:
- Store flammables (e.g., oil, gasoline, propane, paint, etc.) in an unattached shed placed away from the residence;
- Store other items that may burn easily (e.g., citronella candles, wood, etc.) away from appliances;
- When charging appliances, only plug in one per outlet and do not use an extension cord for charging;
- Make sure the garage itself, including the door and ceiling, are fire safe (see the USFA link for details);
- Consider installing a heat alarm instead of a smoke alarm to provide a warning if temperatures get too high without the problem of false alarms due to dust, humidity, insects, etc. (see the USFS link for more information).
A Law Firm for Oakland Fire Victims
To quote the USFA, “Garage fires tend to spread farther and cause more injuries and dollar loss per fire than fires that start in all other areas of the home.” If a garage fire left you injured or claimed the life of a family member, you may be entitled to compensation. If your insurance company isn’t doing its job or if you believe someone was to blame (e.g., a contractor who did shoddy electrical work, the manufacturer of a defective lawn mower, a landlord who failed to install proper safety equipment), call to schedule a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with our Oakland burn injury attorney. We have offices in Oakland, Santa Rosa and San Francisco to serve all of Northern California.
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(Image by Ben Schumin)