I like to think that I’m pretty even-tempered…I don’t get mad very often (and when I do – RUN). But every time I see an apartment fire where the door was left open as the apartment residents escaped, I feel even more frustrated and angry. It is not the fault of the residents that they did not close their door when they ran out in a panic. I did a survey years ago and it was very clear that most people have no idea of the protection offered by a fire door and probably would not realize that they should close it to help prevent the spread of fire.
Most apartment entrance doors are fire door assemblies rated for 20 minutes – designed to provide at least 20 minutes of protection during a fire. In older buildings, the doors may not be labeled but should provide that same protection for the building occupants. Since fire doors are required to automatically close and latch during a fire, building occupants should not have to remember to close their doors.
Several apartment fires have occurred in New York City, including a fire in the Bronx where 13 people were killed. Each time, the FDNY Commissioner told people to close their doors. The fire department even made a promotional video in 2014, reminding people to do so. After the fire in the Bronx, a law was passed in NYC requiring self-closing doors in residential buildings – the deadline for compliance is July 31, 2021.
Earlier this week, another apartment fire occurred in Queens, injuring 21 people including 16 firefighters, and leaving more than 200 people homeless. Again, an open door contributed to the spread of the fire, along with a delay in calling the fire department. Again, the FDNY Commissioner reminded everyone to close their doors if there is a fire. We can’t rely on people to think clearly in an emergency situation – that’s why fire doors are self-closing. We can’t accept any more excuses about fire door inspections and maintenance being cost-prohibitive. I don’t know how many more times this scenario can be repeated before I lose it.
FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said an apartment door was left open at the fire location, reiterating that residents fleeing a fire should always close the door behind them.
“The door was open,” Nigro said. “The occupant fled, left the door open. We’ve stressed over the years the seriousness of that if you do unfortunately have a fire in your home or apartment, how important it is to close that door. The fire (traveled) out to the hallway, the units were unable to make a quick advance.”
Additionally, Nigro said there was a 10-minute delay in calling the fire department, which allowed the flames to spread further. He said residents smelled smoke, but no one immediately called 911.