Mobile homes no more prone to fires than other houses

The mobile home involved in the deadly Bristol fire was built in 1990, well after new federal fire safety rules on such structures went into effect.
Posted on Dec. 16, 2013 at 12:00 a.m. | Updated on Dec. 16, 2013 at 6:33 p.m.

The mobile home involved in the deadly Bristol fire was built in 1990, according to Elkhart County Auditor’s Office records, well after new federal safety rules went into effect governing construction in the sector.

According to the Elkhart County Auditor’s Office, the mobile home in the fire Monday morning, Dec. 16, was built in 1990, years after U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development construction standards went into effect in 1976, according to the National Fire Protection Association, or NFPA.

Meanwhile, a manufactured housing trade group defends the safety of manufactured homes.

“The fact is that manufactured homes are no more prone to fire than homes built on site,” said the Manufactured Housing Association of Oklahoma, citing an Oklahoma State Fire Marshal’s Office report.

A fire Monday, Dec. 16, killed two occupants in a mobile home at the Timberbrook Mobile Home Park west of Bristol, Cindy Kabay, 67, and her son, Chad Russell, 42. Officials hadn’t yet identified a cause as of Monday afternoon, but the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department said preliminary indications did not point to suspicious activity.


According to the NFPA, a nonprofit group based in Quincy, Mass., that advocates fire protection measures, Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, guidelines currently call for interconnected smoke alarms inside or adjacent to “all rooms designated as sleeping areas” in mobile homes. Like the Oklahoma trade group, the NFPA also touted the relative safety of manufactured homes compared to on-site homes.

Manufactured homes built after 1976 to the HUD standards “have a much lower risk of death if fire occurs compared to pre-standard manufactured homes,” said the NFPA website. It went on, saying data for 2007 to 2011 shows that the “overall fire death rate per 100,000 housing units is roughly the same for manufactured homes and for other one- or two-family homes.”

Still, the NFPA, again citing the 2007 to 2011 data, also noted that 51 percent of fires in manufactured homes occurred in residences without smoke alarms. “This suggests a problem with detection devices being removed by occupants,” said the NFPA.

Whether the Timberbrook mobile home involved in Monday’s fire was equipped with smoke detectors and other details weren’t immediately available.

One of the last deadly house fires in the area occurred on Aug. 22, 2011, when a man and his two sons died after their Elkhart home was attacked with a rigged propane tank.

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