Y2019-01 Cabin fire that resulted in the deaths of three children in Levi, Kittilä, on 12 April 2019

On the night of 12 April 2019, a one-and-a-half-storey log cabin completed in 2005 caught fire. A family had rented a holiday cabin from a private owner in the vicinity of the Levi Ski Resort for one week, and it was the last day of the holiday week. At the time the fire started, the adult was visiting the centre of Levi, and four children aged ten to sixteen were sleeping in the cabin. The three youngest children were sleeping in the upstairs bedroom. The young person sleeping downstairs woke up to the sound of a fire alarm, exited the building and called the Emergency Response Centre. When the young person woke up, there was a lot of smoke in the cabin, and fire was visible near the cabin ceiling. The young person shouted at the children sleeping upstairs, trying to get them to wake up, but they did not wake up. They died in their sleep due to the fire gases generated during the fire.

The fire had started from the floor heating cable under the floorboards of the living room. The floor heating had been installed in the airspace under the board flooring, which is an allowed but rare installation method. Many mistakes increasing the risk of fire had been made during the installation. The floor heating cable had been attached directly to the logs in manners clamping the cable, it had tight bends, and it had partially settled inside the insulation wool. Over the years, the cable had overheated, which degrades the insulation material. The long-term heat had also lowered the ignition point of the surrounding combustible materials. During the final inspection, the electrical installations in the cabin were accepted by an electrician who used the licences of an external company.

The building of the cabin took place from 1998 to 2005 and involved many difficulties. The building permit expired and was continued. During inspections, the building inspection authority found cause to comment on structures violating the building permit and deficiencies in the documentation. The construction site manager appointed to the project had quit the position even before the building of the cabin began after noticing unfit building systems and methods in the developer's previous project. Building inspection accepted a situation where there was no construction site manager.

There were fire alarms in the cabin, but there is no full certainty of their locations and operational condition. There was no fire alarm in the room where the fire started. It remained unclear whether there was an operational fire alarm upstairs. Generally, it has been found that children rarely wake up to the sound of a fire alarm.

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. These instructions should be adopted by all the major letting agents and platforms. The practice should be expanded to full European level, for example through the Confederation of Fire Protection Associations Europe CFPA.

• 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.

• 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 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.

Y2019-01 Investigation report in Finnish (pdf, 2.85 Mt)

 
Published 22.11.2019