Muscatine Fire Department warns of increase in residential structure fires

MUSCATINE, Iowa (KWQC) - Fire officials in Muscatine say there was an above normal amount of residential structure fires during the month of April.


Muscatine Fire Marshal and Assistant Fire Chief Mike Hartman says, “I think every single fire that we have had has been residential which drives the narrative a bit more.”

Hartman and officials with the Muscatine Fire Department are urging residents to take the time to discuss and practice good fire safety measures.

Today, residential fires reportedly burn quicker and hotter than residential fires 20 or more years ago, mainly due to materials such as synthetics used in the manufacturing of household goods.

Hartman says, “You can go from a small fire to a big fire rather quickly. A fire in a room can turn into a room full of fire in just two or three minutes leaving little time for a family to react and escape. Twenty years ago with natural products, that escape time could be 30 minutes.”

Officials believe there is a lack of awareness for the lethal qualities of smoke, and fire safety practices, and that there is a sense of complacency with the dangerousness of fire.

Hartman expresses that one frustration is finding a commonality among the recent fires, noting the causes differentiate in each circumstance.

He says, the one real commonality he sees is “the carelessness and lack of appreciation for the seriousness of fire.”

Officials urge residents to create and practice an escape plan to follow in the event of an emergency.

According to Hartman, “When the smoke alarm goes off, you need to have a plan and you need to get out. It doesn’t matter whether you meet at a tree in the front yard, a tree in the back yard, or at a neighbor’s house. Just get out and stay out.”

In addition to creating an escape plan, officials remind all residents that in Iowa, it is a state law to have working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors installed in your home.

Hartman says, “Looking at these recent fires, most had detectors, but not all of them had operating detectors.”

According to the National Fire Prevention Association, almost three of every five home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms, or non-working smoke alarms.

Although critics argue the possibility of water damage to the home, Hartman is an advocate for installing sprinkler systems in homes.

While there have been numerous causes for the recent fires, Hartman says the type of construction on the home, such as light weight, can make firefighting difficult in the event of an emergency.

He also mentions that, like residents plan to escape a fire, they plan and train to attack the different kinds of residential fires – some more difficult to fight than others.

The most important message, Hartman says, is awareness. He encourages parents to reinforce lessons of fire prevention and then importance of having an escape plan, along with the proper tools installed in your home.