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2013 data shows older homes fire prone

By Bianca Montes
May 20, 2014 at 12:20 a.m.

TOP: Smoke pours out of a trailer home in the Crestwood Mobile Home Park as firefighters work to extinguish the remaining fire. No one was home when the fire occurred last year, and no one was injured, but the home was considered a total loss. The cause of the fire was undetermined.


To find out more information about residential fires in 2013, find this article online to view a database that lists when and where the fire happened, appraisal information about the home and links to previous stories the Advocate has written.

Almost 70 percent of homes wrecked by fires in 2013 were valued at less than $100,000. The value of the home, however, has nothing to do with it being more receptive to fire.

The year it was built does.

"Homes built 60, 70 years ago weren't built with materials homes today are," said Victoria Fire Chief Taner Drake. "Even the homes built five years ago were built to a different standard."

The Victoria Fire Department responded to 356 fires in 2013, which included structure, vehicle, grass and trash - 44 of those fires were residential. Not a single home on that list was built later than 2007, according to data obtained from the fire department and Central Appraisal District.

Changes to building and fire codes in 2009 forced builders to use better, fire-retardant wood and coatings in order to adhere to fire-resistance ratings. More than half of the homes built before 2007 were constructed in the 1950s and early '60s, a time when building standards were even more lax, Drake said.

Those homes, he said, were not wired to handle the stress of modern-day electronics.

"They are plugging more electronics into the wall than the socket was made to hold," Drake said. "People have a tendency to overload."

In October, a mobile home built in 1940 was gutted by a fire that appeared to have started in a window A/C unit, David Phillips, Victoria County assistant chief, wrote in an email.

The official cause of the fire was ruled unintentional by a spark, ember or flame from operating equipment, according to data obtained from the fire department.

Drake said using an electric cord strip will control electric surges and can reduce the risk of overloading a socket.

Carelessness, Drake said, is the primary cause of fires.

"Not paying attention, leaving candles on - these are all preventable by being a little careful and not getting distracted," he said.

About $265,000 in losses last year were due to carelessness from candles, lighters, cigarettes and stove fires, according to the fire department data. However, the number should be higher because a large portion of the fire causes remain undetermined, Drake said.

The fire department cannot list a cause if they're unable to prove one.

"Fire is so damaging," he said, that "a lot of times, it consumes any evidence we may have, making it difficult to determine a cause."



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