Smoking Materials to Blame in Seven Oaks Fire

Fire investigators said a two-alarm fire at an apartment complex in Seven Oaks may have been triggered by smoking materials that were improperly discarded.

A fire in at an apartment complex in Seven Oaks on Wednesday may have been caused by smoking materials that were improperly discarded, fire department officials said. 

Division Chief Michael Cox of the Anne Arundel County Fire Department said that investigators believe the cause of the fire was accidental in nature. 

The fire destroyed several units in the apartment complex on Kintore Circle and damaged about a dozen units. Cox said about 30 people have been impacted by the fire, though property managers in Seven Oaks said they hope to find new apartments for those displaced.

Wednesday's fire came about a month after another blaze caused $750,000 in damage at an adjacent apartment building. Cox said it does not appear the two fires are related. The fire on Sept. 30 was also determined to be set accidentally, though a specific cause has not been determined.

The National Fire Protection Association said there were 90,800 fires resulting from smoking materials in 2010, resulting in 610 deaths and $663 million in property damage. However, the association said deaths were at a 30-year low. 

The NFPA has issued the following safety tips for storing and discarding cigarettes:

  • Whenever you smoke, use deep, wide, sturdy ashtrays.
  • Ashtrays should be set on something sturdy and hard to ignite, like an end table.
  • Before you throw out butts and ashes, make sure they are out. Dowsing them in water or sand is the best way to do this.
  • Check under furniture cushions and other places people smoke for cigarette butts that may have fallen out of sight.

See also: 

  • Fire Hits Seven Oaks Apartments Again
  • Fire in Seven Oaks


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Jason Humm November 08, 2012 at 03:55 PM
Do these apartments not have sprinkler systems? Just wondering if that would make a difference in the rate the fire spreads to other units.
Rory Ko November 08, 2012 at 04:26 PM
These apartments do have sprinkler systems, but one has to question their efficacy.
Calique November 08, 2012 at 06:32 PM
People just need to stop it with the smoking already. Gross.
Anonymous November 08, 2012 at 10:09 PM
The apartments do have sprinkler systems. Unfortunately both fires started on the exterior and worked there way into the void space (roof) which are not required to be sprinklered, the balcony is not required to have sprinklers as well. If the fire were to have started in the interior of the building the sprinkler system would have contained the fire to the area of origin.
Blown resident November 09, 2012 at 02:37 AM
My sprinkles never went off! And the alarm sounded as the floor caught on fire- my apartment was the worst one in the top corner...I was home!
Mike Brown November 09, 2012 at 03:11 AM
I believe all residential places must have sprinkler systems. Knock on wood, where I live in PO I have never had an issue with fire, etc. Blown resident, how old is the fire system in your apartment complex? Heat not smoke will activate the sprinker. I am thankful that you are okay.
Rory Ko November 09, 2012 at 04:06 AM
Blown resident, just to clarify, are you saying that the fire was already eating through the building before the alarms went off? I read another account that implied the same thing. Also, have you been given a reason as to why your sprinklers were not activated? If sprinklers are heat activated and functioning properly, I can't imagine why they would not have turned on regardless of the place of origin. I am glad that you are safe, but the losses you have suffered are huge, and I think management owes you and all of the other residents of the complex an explanation.
Jon J. Jingleheimerschmidt November 09, 2012 at 06:41 AM
Sprinklers don't all just "turn on" like is seen in the movies. Each sprinkler head has either a frangible bulb or a fusible link that breaks or melts at a designated temperature. The heat has to collect at the head to activate it. The balconies did not require sprinkler coverage because they were under a predetermined square footage that triggered the coverage requirement. If built today, it would be required under the current building code. The apartments on the top floor were most damaged because the fire raced up the combustible exterior and decks to the roof soffet where it entered the attic space. The exterior is obviously not covered by sprinklers and neither is the attic - only living space is protected. t should be noted that residential sprinklers are designed to keep a fire in check and allow occupants time to escape, not to completely extinguish the fire. That is why non-living spaces did not require coverage.
near_starlet November 09, 2012 at 01:02 PM
I'm so sorry! Please let us know if there is anything we can donate and where we can bring the donations to!
near_starlet November 09, 2012 at 01:14 PM
Maryland building code required that any dwelling that has an initial building permit issued (or construction begins) after July 1, 1990 had to have sprinkler systems installed in living spaces. (source: http://mlis.state.md.us/asp/web_statutes.asp?gps&9-204).
Tara long November 09, 2012 at 05:09 PM
I am sorry for the loss of those families who have lost much during such a hard economic time. I have a four bedroom townhome for rent if anyone is interested and wants to leave the apartment complex. It's still in the seven oaks community on the Blue Water side. Please email me your info at trlong@aacps.org leave your name and number and I will get back to you. May God bless each of the families 100 fold for thier loss. Mrs. Long
Rory Ko November 10, 2012 at 12:49 AM
"Turn[ed] on" is obviously just being used as another way of saying "activated," which was written in in the previous sentence. The mechanism of activation is an interesting topic, but whatever that mechanism is, the point is that it's supposed to be triggered by heat, of which there has to have been plenty during the fire. It makes sense that the heat might not have come close enough soon enough in this instance, but we don't know for sure. More importantly, this is at least the fourth fire at Seven Oaks within one year's time, which seems most unusual--even suspicious, one might say. And I only know about those four because I happened to see them. So I thank you for your explanation, Mr. Jingleheimerschmidt, but we are still awaiting one from management, which has been evasive at best regarding these incidents. The residents of the complex have already been living in a state of abnormal anxiety, and are paying more than enough money for the increasingly dubious privilege of doing so. Both clearer answers and firmer precautions—like fire extinguishers in the units—are already overdue
Ella Vader November 10, 2012 at 01:08 AM
I believe that the fire was described as accidental. Wouldn't improper disposal of smoking materials leading to fire be negligent? Thoughts and prayers to everyone who was involved including the fire fighters who risk their lives.
Anonymous November 10, 2012 at 08:01 AM
In fire investigations there is only four categories for classification of the cause. Accidental, Natural, Incendiary (intentionally set), and undetermined.


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