Fires at two North Carolina commercial properties raise questions of liability

In less than a week, two commercial building fires – one in Warrenton, the other in Durham – destroyed a farm supply store and an architect office. Our injury attorneys in Charlotte know that more than 1.3 million fires were reported in the U.S. last year, causing $12.5 billion in property damage alone.

With that in mind, it is the responsibility of business owners and commercial property managers to secure and maintain fire and smoke safety equipment to protect office workers and customers by installing smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and sprinkler systems and implementing fire safety protocols and practicing fire drill evacuations.
The National Fire Protection Association reported more than 3,000 people died and another 17,050 were injured in vehicle, structural or outdoor fires in 2009. The NFPA estimates that a fire department responded to a fire every 23 seconds and a structure fire was reported nearly every minute. Every 2 hours and 55 minutes of 2009 a person died due to fire related injuries.

Regarding non-residential property specifically, there were 103,500 non-residential fires in 2009 that killed 105, injured 1,690 and caused an estimated $3 billion in property damage. In addition there were 90,000 apartment fires that caused $1.2 billion in property damage while claiming 465 victims and leaving 3,350 injured.

According to Firefighting News, the owner of the architect firm dropped in his office last Sunday morning to check messages when he noticed smoke and called authorities. Five trucks and 21 firefighters responded and extinguished the fire within 10 minutes of arrival. The fire, which began in a storage room laden with architectural drawings, also damaged the next-door suite.

WRAL-TV5 reports a fire at Southern States Farm & Garden called in around 6 p.m. Wednesday evening was still ablaze Thursday morning causing fire officials to call for school closures and the evacuation of area homes and businesses (the county library among them) within three-blocks of the blaze.

Because the supply store sold hazardous and flammable materials – fertilizers, ammunition and propane included – firefighters called for evacuations after becoming concerned about air quality issues and the risk of storage tank explosions. Additional fears of contaminating the town’s water supply with chemical-laden runoff led to firefighters monitoring the fire as it burned itself out.

It is believed the fire began in the rear of the building and a preliminary investigation has ruled out foul play. Crews from eight fire departments responded to the blaze.

The Lee & Smith personal injury attorneys in Anderson, Winston-Salem and Burlington know that being involved in a serious or fatal Carolina accident, or losing a loved one to a serious or fatal injury accident, can be among the most challenging times in your life. If you or someone you love has been involved in a serious accident, call us at 1-800-887-1965 or email our law offices to schedule a free consultation to discuss your rights.

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