B1/2009Y Fire in Detached House Leading to the Dead of Five Young People in Naantali on 9 October 2009
On 9 October 2009, a group of youths aged 15–19 years had gathered to spend Friday evening in a detached house in Naantali. During the evening, a total of 19 young visitors dropped in at the house. The adolescents had divided into two groups, some staying in the actual living space while others remained in the hobby room built in the former garage.
At 23:39, the four boys staying in the hobby room noticed flames through the opening of a slightly ajar door. One of them opened the door a little more, allowing the already strong blaze into the room. The door could no longer be shut. One of the boys escaped through the semi-heated space located between the former garage and the actual living space. He was severely injured. Two other boys managed to exit through small windows located at almost ceiling height. Breaking the windows and crawling through them was difficult. The fourth boy was unable to save himself.
At around 23:40, those staying in the living space observed black smoke entering the room from the direction of the hall, at ceiling height. Upon investigating the situation in the hall, the youths opened the hot exterior door, through which black smoke began to billow. Since there were no other exits, the adolescents attempted to break the living room window using a moped helmet, chairs and elbows. This was laborious and took time. Finally, the window was broken and six adolescents escaped through it. Thick smoke and the sharp glass edges remaining by the window frames hampered their efforts to save themselves. Three of the adolescents fled to a bedroom, through which they attempted to exit. However, probably because of the smoke, they were unable to find the window. One youngster, who had been sleeping in another bedroom, was found dead outside the door of her room. Of the fourteen youths who were in the house, five died. One was seriously injured and eight sustained mild injuries.
The Emergency Response Centre (ERC) received several emergency calls relating to the fire. Two of these were made from inside the building. On the basis of the calls, the ERC called out units of the rescue services, emergency medical services and the police. According to the statement given by the forensic pathologist, those remaining in the house were dead before the units arrived.
Although the immediate cause of the fire could not be identified with any certainty, it is evident that negligent fire handling was involved. The fire broke out in the sauna premises at some distance from the premises where the youth were staying, enabling the fire to develop into a blaze before it was noticed. After the fire had spread through open doors into both the hobby room and the living area, little time remained for escaping. The only exit could not be used. There was no other exit and the windows could not be opened. Breaking the windows and escaping through them was difficult.
The investigation commission recommends that single-family houses which are new or being renovated should be required to have an additional exterior door or window equipped with fixed handles. In parallel with general safety information campaigns, targeted communications should be developed in order to transmit simple and straightforward instructions to be observed in case of fire. Responsible parenting should, in turn, be enhanced by raising the issue in public discussion. Development needs in ERC operations include improving communication between ERC operators in the emergency call reception room and drawing up performance indicators which would better support the work of ERC employees. In corresponding situations, rescue and fire extinguishing tactics could be improved by attempting to identify the location of the persons inside the building as precisely as possible, on the basis of the emergency call. Focusing on those parts of the building could then be the priority.