Y2014-03 Fire in a wooden apartment house in Turku on 4 November 2014
As a result of careless use of an electric stove, a multi-storey wooden building, approximately 100 years old, caught fire at Raunistula, Turku, on the night of 4 November 2014. The fire spread rapidly to several flats. Two people in different flats died, and six others sustained minor injuries.
The first unit of the fire and rescue services arrived at the fire scene nine minutes after the first emergency call was received. At that time, all of the nine people who survived the fire were already out of the building. The building had 17 flats in all, but most of the flats were unoccupied at the time of the fire. The survivors managed to escape the fire, because half of those present in the building at the time of the fire were awake.
The smoke and fire spread dangerously because the building lacked any appropriate fire compartmentation. Over the years, the number of flats in the building has increased. At least the most recently added flat had been constructed without any requisite permits or building supervision. No fire prevention inspection had been carried out for a long time, and a number of fire detection devices were lacking. In the emergency plan, due consideration had not been given to the structural properties of the building or the functional capability of the residents.
In addition to the other residents, a community of substance abusers was also living in the building. Because of the community's high-risk way of life, emergency medical care services and the police had made frequent visits to the building. Some of the substance abusers had client relationship with the local social services, who, however, did not supervise the safety of their clients' living environment very closely. The authorities had not identified or targeted the wooden building occupied by a community of substance abusers as a potential fire risk priority. Furthermore, the procedure of notifying potential fire risks and hazards, designed to promote interoperation between authorities, had not been applied.
The Safety Investigation Authority recommends that
- The Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities should, by making use of the good services of the partnership network of the rescue services and departments, further develop the cooperation between the authorities and other organisations so as to ensure the effective implementation of the cooperation provided for in section 42 of the Rescue Act, and to ensure that the relevant parties are both capable of notifying and willing to notify any identified potential fire risks and hazards.
- SESKO (Finnish Electrotechnical Standardisation Association) should take the initiative in promoting the modernisation of the standards governing the electrotechnical safety requirements of electric stoves so as to reduce the incidence of fires caused by electric stoves available for sale within the EU. In the safety requirements, due consideration should be given to the fact that households can comprise e.g. children and elderly people, and that the stoves are also used under influence of alcohol.
- The Ministry of the Environment should, together with the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities and the Ministry of the Interior, establish a policy and methodology for how to identify old multiple-occupancy buildings with poor fire safety and how to bring their fire safety up to an acceptable level. Such a fire safety assessment could be targeted at, for example, wooden buildings constructed before 1960 comprising more than three flats smaller than 50 square metres in floor area.
- The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health should, together with the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities, develop common practices for different sectors of municipalities for the purpose of ensuring the fire safety of social welfare clients with reduced functional capability. At least, fire detection devices, emergency exit routes and fire compartmentation between flats must be organised appropriately. The public support decisions should promote the safety of residence and living environment.