Still in critical condition after a fire
A man in his forties is still being held in hospital after a fire which started in Stangarhylur in the early hours of yesterday morning.
This is what a police officer at the Icelandic Police in the capital area says, adding that a technical department will be looking at the scene today.
Jumped out the window to escape the fire
Only one escape was available when a fire occurred on the second floor of the building. One resident decided to jump out of a window to escape. Another resident, a foreign-born worker in his fifties, is still in hospital in critical condition after the fire.
Six people live on the upper floor, all foreign workers.
Gudjón Ingason, the deputy-inspector of the fire department in the capital area, told mbl.is that all the inhabitants on that floor, except one, had already got out of the premises when the fire department arrived. That man was in the space where the fire started.
Complete chaos when firefighters arrived
“There was complete chaos at the site,” Ingason tells us, adding that two firefighters stormed the premises and picked up the man, who is now in critical condition in the hospital.
Three people got out of the house without injuries, one had been poisoned by the smoke and another was injured after jumping out of a window.
“One of them jumped out of a window on the second floor and was somewhat hurt. The other one had gotten out but had smoke poisoning,” he says, “so the men were also taken to the hospital for treatment.”
Only one escape route
Ingason says that the fire-fighting operation was a relative success. The fire was not able to spread much before the fire department turned it out. On the other hand, a lot of smoke was generated.
When asked about the fire security in the building he says that it is in the hands of the police to make that assessment.
“I don’t know about the fire protection per se. There was at least no other escape route except this one exit. That shows that it was not quite up to par,” he says, but he points out that the fire-fighting walls separate the part of the building where the fire occurred from the other part of the building.
In Rúv’s evening news last night, it was reported that an application had been accepted in 2002 to turn the upper floor of the building into a housing unit, on the condition that balconies be built. The balconies were never built.
Most of the fire in the kitchen
The source of the fire has not been confirmed but the fire seemed to be most intense in the space where the kitchen was located, according to Jón Viðar Matthíasson, fire chief in the capital area.
“This was a very challenging task. There was a lot of dense smoke, but the departure was relatively quick. It’s always complicated and difficult when we have to be searching,” Matthíasson says, adding that six people were in the premises where the fire started. Three of them were taken to an emergency room.
Working on the back of the house
Matthíasson says there are two houses in the area, the front and the rear. The upper floor of the front house has been caught by fire. He says that it didn’t look like people were living on the lower floor.
According to Jón Viðar, the fire department has been working on the rear house and two escape routes have been secured out of all spaces. It is three stories high, and therefore larger than the front house where the fire started. He says he has heard that about 50 people live in the rear house.
The fire department inspected the house where the fire started in 2021 and 2022. There was no accommodation there in 2021 but shortly before the turn of the century, the request was made to turn the upper floor into a housekeeper’s apartment. It was rejected because there were no two independent escape routes on the floor. Another request for such an apartment was received and was accepted in 2002 on the condition that a balcony would be built.
A lot of responsibility
Matthíasson says that the owner was supposed to install the balcony and not take the premises into use until they were installed. Afterwards, he was supposed to request a final audit of the changes. Given that the balcony was not installed, he considers it unlikely that the final audit was requested.
He says that regardless of whether people are renting an apartment that is defined as a residential building or renting a commercial building where someone, the most important thing number one, two and three is to ensure people’s safety. The responsibility of the owner is therefore high.
“Our main policy in looking at commercial buildings is that fire protection is adequate. People can wake up if they catch fire, like people have two independent escape routes,” he says, adding that it is also required that the fire chambers are not large.