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Air Conditioning Fires

While we don't typically experience the exceedingly oppressive heat and humidity felt by those in the southern tier of our state, even on the Northern Gulf Coast these are, in literal terms, hot times. Both July and August see identical average high temperatures at 90⁰ with similarly identical average lows only falling to a still-warm 75⁰, according to The Weather Channel, which declares July the hottest month in Panama City. With numbers like that, air conditioners get quite the workout this time of year. Although it sounds like a bit of a contradiction, air conditioner fires are a very real threat. When these blazes lead to injury, we are here to help.

Busy Day for Firefighters Includes AC-Related Fire

On Sunday July 6, as reported by WJHG, Panama City Beach Fire Rescue responded to multiple fire calls. Around 5:15 p.m., they partnered with Bay County Fire Services to extinguish a blaze in the Oasis Worship Center's parking lot on Front Beach Road. Shortly after putting out the fire in a small storage building, the Fire Services crew received another call. In this case, an air conditioning fire had broken out at the Treasure Cove Motel. Crews were able to extinguish the fire and reported minimal damage to the Thomas Drive location from the smoke and flames. Thankfully, no one was hurt in either fire.

Air Conditioning Fires by the Numbers

In an October 2012 paper, the National Fire Protection Association ("NFPA") examined "Home Fires Involving Air Conditioning, Fans or Related Equipment." During 2010, air conditioners (or "ACs"), fans, and similar equipment sparked approximately 7,400 home fires in the United States. These blazes left 249 civilians injured and claimed 29 civilian lives. The NFPA suggests that these numbers have varied from year-to-year but that there didn't appear to be a clear trend.

Overall, between 2006 and 2010 an average of 7,200 AC home fires included 2,500 fires involving central air conditioning and room units, 3,900 fires involving fans, and 500 heat pump-related fires (approximately 13.2 million households use heat pumps to run their AC systems). The three peak months for all of these forms of fires are, unsurprisingly, June, July, and August. While just a quarter of the year, the months see 49% of all AC fires and 32% of fan fires (which can include cooling fans but also ventilation equipment used year-round).

Causes & Details of Air Conditioner Fires

The NFPA report also looks at the factors that contribute to AC fires and related blazes. In most cases, the fires stem from mechanical or electrical failures and approximately one-third (33%) of these fires started with wires igniting or cable insulation catching aflame. Looking at all AC and related fires, 23% begin in the bathroom and 17% start in the bedroom. Focusing only on fatal fires, leading points of origin are the living/family room/den (38%) or in a wall assembly or other concealed wall space (35%).

An article from the summer of 2012 in the Sun Sentinel also focused on the problem of AC fires. That piece specifically mentioned the danger of water dripping from AC units and causing electrical problems. In smaller condos, it is fairly common to have AC units placed over water heaters or washers and dryers, a fire danger.

If you have been injured in an AC fire that was the result of someone else's negligent or wrongful acts, you may be entitled to damages. Examples of possible defendants include: A builder who cut corners or otherwise installed equipment in an unduly dangerous manner; A landlord who failed to maintain equipment; A manufacturer who used shoddy equipment. Call to discuss the facts of your unique case and how we can help you recover much-needed compensation.

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