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Y2014-02 Fire in a block of flats in Turku on 17 March 2014

A fire broke out early on Monday morning 17 March 2014 in a one-room flat on the second residential floor of an eight-floor block of flats built in 1974. At the time of the incident, there were 50 people present in the flats. The resident of the flat where the fire broke out exited the flat into the stairwell, and subsequently perished there. As a result, the flat's door to the stairwell was left open.

Smoke and heat spread into the stairwell, igniting the outer doors of the flats on the floors above the burning flat. Smoke spread into the flats via door cracks, letterboxes, and ultimately, burnt-through doors. In testing during the investigation, the fire doors burned through in 22 minutes, while the requirement is 30 minutes. The stairwell that was the only exit from the building was impassable due to smoke. The residents stayed in the flats and on the balconies. The situation of the residents was difficult due to the smoke.

The rescue department extinguished the fire and evacuated the entire building. Residents were brought out both via the stairwell and with the help of aerial platforms. Because the building's yard area had no emergency access roads, the aerial platforms were erected on unstable ground, on snow-free and icy grass. The risk was taken consciously in order to be able to rescue the people. Ambulances transported five residents of the building to hospital. Social services provided temporary lodging for 21 people.

A common apartment fire developed into a fierce blaze, and smoke spread throughout the entire building because the door from the burning flat to the stairwell was left open, the large window in the flat broke, the automatic smoke extraction hatch in the stairwell opened and the plastic skylight windows melted. This caused a flue effect that was augmented by the firemen opening the downstairs door of the stairwell. There were no flammable liquids or fire load uncommon to a regular flat in the flat from which the fire started.

Safety Investigation Authority issues the following five recommendations.

  • The Ministry of the Environment will prepare a long term justifiable plan of the possibility that an automatic fire extinguishing system will be installed in new and renovated blocks of flats and possibly other residential buildings
  • Together with the rescue departments, the Finnish Real Estate Management Federation and the Finnish Real Estate Federation will ensure that the air tightness and condition of the fire doors in residential blocks of flats are checked regularly and that the installations of door-closing mechanisms are expedited.
  • The Ministry of the Environment will amend the building regulations so that a door-closing mechanism is required on the fire doors of new and renovated residential blocks of flats.
  • The Ministry of the Environment will amend the building regulations so that one can exit new and renovated buildings on one's own also via a fire escape. The primary fire escape arrangement must be a balcony hatch, ladder or other fixed arrangement.
  • Together with the Confederation of Finnish Construction Industries, the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of the Interior will ensure that research information is obtained on the operation of the automatic smoke extraction hatches in the stairwells of residential blocks of flats and the deterioration of fire door properties over time.

Report Y2014-02 (pdf, 1.69 Mt)

Published 21.10.2014