Improvements needed in the fire safety of rental cabins – the accident investigation of the cabin fire that led to the deaths of three children in Levi, Kittilä on 12 April 2019 is complete.

Published 22.11.2019

The Safety Investigation Authority has completed its investigation of a rental cabin fire that led to the deaths of three children in Levi, Kittilä, on 12 April 2019. The fire started from electric floor heating (Safety Investigation Authority bulletin 10 May 2019 link). All three children who were sleeping upstairs died due to fire gases. The young person who was sleeping downstairs woke up to the fire alarm and managed to exit the cabin.

In its investigation, the Safety Investigation Authority has examined the safety requirements and practices and the safety of electrical installations in the rental cabin business.

As a result of the investigation, the Safety Investigation Authority issues four safety recommendations for improving the fire safety in rental cabins:

The Safety Investigation Authority recommends that the Finnish National Rescue Associations SPEK draw up short instructions and a check list that a party letting out an apartment or a holiday home for a short period of time can use to ensure and show to the lessee how the basic safety has been taken care of.

The largest fire safety problems in the cabin that burned down were the mistakes in electrical installations and deficiencies in fire alarms. The cabin residents had rented the cabin for a short period of time directly from the owner. The same cabin was let out via different platforms. The instructions should be adopted by all the major letting agents and platforms, and the practice should be expanded to the entire Europe, states professor Veli-Pekka Nurmi, Executive Director of the Safety Investigation Authority.

Secondly, the Safety Investigation Authority recommends that the Ministry of Employment and the Economy take the safety issues in the accommodation business into consideration in the preparation of regulations for the sharing and platform economy and in international co-operation. Platforms offering accommodation must show how the basic safety of the apartment or holiday home have been taken care of. The customer must also be provided with the necessary safety instructions.

At a minimum, an apartment offered to a third party must be equipped with a sufficient number of operational fire alarms, adequate emergency exits from the sleeping areas and a portable fire extinguisher and a fire blanket. The property must also have the commissioning report for electrical installations. If necessary, the document can be obtained from the electrician. Additionally, sufficient information on safe accommodation and acting in emergencies must be available to the lodgers, adds professor Veli-Pekka Nurmi, Executive Director of the Safety Investigation Authority.

Thirdly, the Safety Investigation Authority recommends that the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency and the Ministry of the Environment jointly develop procedures that can be used during the supervision of a building project to ensure that the electrical installations and proper final inspections are performed by a qualified contractor.

The fourth recommendation of the Safety Investigation Authority is connected to ensuring the operation of fire alarms.

The Safety Investigation Authority repeats the recommendation given after the investigation of the 2016 fire in a terraced house in Raahe and its grounds:

Fire alarms are an important part of safety, but there are uncertainties involved in their operation such as poor maintenance, incorrect installation, age of the device or a battery running out or even missing.

The results of the fire were serious, because the fire alarms did not wake up the people in the cabin in time. There is no full certainty of the number, locations and operational condition of the fire alarms in the cabin. The current requirement of one fire alarm for each beginning 60 square metres in the apartment leads to a situation where there are often too few fire alarms, states Kai Valonen, Investigator-in-charge.

The Safety Investigation Authority recommends that

The Ministry of the Interior ensures that fire alarms are installed in apartments in clearly larger numbers than the current minimum requirement through regulations and instructions as well as safety communications carried out with various stakeholders. As a rule, a fire alarm should be installed in all residential rooms and exit routes.

Because there are also uncertainty factors relating to waking up to the sound of fire alarms, the installation of fire alarms connected in series should be promoted in addition to increasing their number. This increases the likelihood of everyone in the apartment, particularly adults, will wake up in time in case of a fire, adds Kai Valonen, Investigator-in-charge.

Further information: Executive Director, professor Veli-Pekka Nurmi, tel. +358 295 150 701, Investigator-in-charge Kai Valonen, tel. +358 (0)295 150 707.

Investigation report (in Finnish)