5 Most Common Causes of Apartment Fires


Cooking fires are the number one cause of apartment fires. Cooking fires account for 5 times as many fires as the number two cause: arson. Cooking fires are responsible for half of all multifamily building fires. Stovetop firestops are a great first line defense against cooking fires. Water is may be ineffective for extinguishing grease fires; water may even spread and exacerbate the fire. Stovetop firestops are cheap, easy to install and do much less damage than traditional sprinklers when triggered.


Arson accounts for a tenth of all apartment fires. Arson includes both intentional fires started by criminals and accidental fires set by children. Criminal arson is difficult to prevent; accidental fires started by children are more preventable. Make sure tenants are aware of the need to keep flammable materials away from children; keep matches and lighters in a safe place.

Unattended fire: Smoking & Candles

Smoking related fires are statistically the most dangerous of apartment fires. Smoking accounts for only 8% of apartment fires, but 35% of all apartment fire deaths. The high mortality rate is a result of people falling asleep while smoking and igniting flammable bedding.

Like smoking, candle fires are far more deadly than they are common, and for the same reasons. People light candles at night, when it is dark, and fall asleep, leaving the flame unattended. Candle fires are more common in Fall and Winter, when holiday festivities often include candles and flammable decorations.


Fires from heating devices are less common in multifamily buildings than in single family homes. This is because apartment complexes often have central heating. If your building does not provide central heating, you should take precaution to ensure safe use of personal heating devices by tenants. Heaters should never be in contact with, or nearby, flammable materials like cloth or wood.


Although less common than the other causes, electrical fires are a significant risk. Both the landlord and tenants should be diligent in replacing old and worn electrical cords. Do not overload outlets, or daisy chain surge protectors and extension cords. If electrical equipment gives off a strange odor (an early sign it may cause a fire), disconnect it and have it serviced by a professional. Do not put electrical equipment, cords or cables, under rugs, blankets or other objects that may lead to overheating.