• October marks the month of national Fire Prevention and Awareness.  The risk of serious injury and death from home fires is real.  In 2011, 384,000 homes across the country required fire department emergency responses, which claimed the lives of 2,640 and injured 13,350 others.[1]  Most victims of fires die from smoke or toxic gases and not from burns.[2]  85% of all US fire deaths in 2009 occurred in homes.[3]  Of the home fires that cause death, 40% had no smoke alarms.  The main reason that smoke alarms fail to operate during home fires is missing or disconnected batteries.

    Landlord Responsibility to Promote Fire Safety

    In Washington, as in many states, a landlord of a residential unit must ensure that all units have smoke detection devices.[4]  The smoke detection device must be designed, manufactured and installed inside the dwelling unit in conformance with nationally accepted standards and per Washington state rules and regulations promulgated by the director of fire protection.  While a tenant must maintain the smoke detector and test/replace batteries periodically, the owner alone is responsible for installation.  The landlord must also ensure the smoke detector’s performance whenever a unit becomes vacant and before re-letting it.

    A landlord who does not comply with this law is subject to civil penalty and may be liable to any tenant who is injured from smoke or fire due to the lack of a functioning smoke detector.

    Keep Your Home Fire Safe

    • Cooking Safely: never leave cooking food unattended on the stove.  Keep all flammable objects, such as potholders, towels, and clothing, away from flame.  Also keep the handles of pots turned in.
    • Smoking: try to quit.  If you must smoke indoors, never smoke in bed or leave a burning cigarette unattended.  Never smoke while drowsy or under the influence of alcohol or medications.  Don’t empty hot ashes into a garbage can.  Keep ashtrays away from furniture and curtains.
    • Staying warm: stay safe.  Keep any space heaters three feet away from any flammable objects, including curtains, furniture and bedding.
    • Alarms.  Install smoke alarms on every floor of your home, including the basement.  Install smoke alarms in all sleeping rooms, especially those occupied by a smoker.  Test smoke alarms once a moth using the test button.  Test and change your batteries every six months.
    • Escape plan.  Determine a home fire escape plan.  Have at least two exits for every room and agree on a meeting place outside with all household members.  Practice your escape plan twice a year with everyone in your home.

    For more information on fire safety, go to:


    For the duties of a landlord and tenant regarding smoke detectors go to:


    Learn More About Home Fire Prevention


    1. Ahrens M. The U.S. fire problem overview report: leading causes and other patterns and trends. Quincy (MA): National Fire Protection Association; 2003.
    2. Ahrens M. Home structure fires. Quincy (MA): National Fire Protection Association; 2011.
    3. Ahrens M. Smoke alarms in U.S. home fires. Quincy (MA): National Fire Protection Association; 2009.
    4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Deaths resulting from residential fires and the prevalence of smoke alarms – United States 1991–1995. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 1998; 47(38): 803–6.
    5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). National vital statistics system. Hyattsville (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CDC, National Center for Health Statistics; 1998.
    6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [Online]. (2010). National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (producer). Available from: URL:www.cdc.gov/ncipc/wisqars.  [Cited 2010 Sept 21].
    7. Finkelstein EA, Corso PS, Miller TR, Associates. Incidence and Economic Burden of Injuries in the United States. New York: Oxford University Press; 2006.
    8. Flynn JD.  Characteristics of home fire victims. Quincy (MA): National Fire Protection Association; 2010.
    9. Hall JR. Burns, toxic gases, and other hazards associated with fires: Deaths and injuries in fire and non-fire situations. Quincy (MA): National Fire Protection Association, Fire Analysis and Research Division; 2001.
    10. International Association for the Study of Insurance Economics. World fire statistics: information bulletin of the world fire statistics. Geneva (Switzerland): The Geneva Association; 2009.
    11. Istre GR, McCoy MA, Osborn L, Barnard JJ, Bolton A. Deaths and injuries from house fires. New England Journal of Medicine 2001;344:1911–16.
    12. Karter MJ. Fire loss in the United States during 2010,. Quincy (MA): National Fire Protection Association, Fire Analysis and Research Division; 2011.
    13. Parker DJ, Sklar DP, Tandberg D, Hauswald M, Zumwalt RE. Fire fatalities among New Mexico children. Annals of Emergency Medicine 1993;22(3):517–22.
    14. Runyan CW, Bangdiwala SI, Linzer MA, Sacks JJ, Butts J. Risk factors for fatal residential fires. New England Journal of Medicine 1992;327(12):859–63.
    15. Runyan SW, Casteel C (Eds.). The state of home safety in America: Facts about unintentional injuries in the home, 2nd edition. Washington, D.C.: Home Safety Council, 2004.
    16. Smith GS, Branas C, Miller TR. Fatal nontraffic injuries involving alcohol: a meta-analysis. Annals of Emergency Medicine 1999;33(6):659–68.

    [2] Hall 2001.

    [3] Karter 2011.

    [4] RCW 43.44.110; See also Moratti ex rel. Tarutis v. Famers Ins. Co. of Washington, 162 Wn. App. 495, 254 P.3d 939 (2011).


Display by category