Fire Prevention and Safety

Smoke Alarm Recall

Universal Security Instruments recalls to inspect smoke alarms due to risk of failure to alert consumers to a fire. The smoke alarms can have a misaligned internal switch causing the alarms to not activate properly, posing a risk of failure to alert consumers to a fire. Visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission website for this and other recalls.


Residential Fire Sprinklers

The City of Olympia created a residential fire sprinkler ordinance July of 2014. Please view this video from the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition on the operation and effectiveness of residential fire sprinkler systems. Then consider the following information.

Home fire sprinklers are a critical in saving lives and property. Your risk of dying in a home fire is cut by 80% when sprinklers are present.


This fire started on the stove in an apartment building on Fern St SW. The building was protected by fire sprinklers. One sprinkler head activated and extinguished the fire prior to the arrival of Olympia Fire Department units. Resulting damage was about $10,000 and all other families were able to occupy their apartment units.


Six days after the Fern Street fire, OFD units responded to a kitchen fire in an apartment building on 22nd Avenue SE. The building was NOT protected by fire sprinklers. Resulting damage was over $85,000. Four families were displaced by the fire.

Fire Sprinklers save lives and property in all types of buildings. But where it really matters is where you live. The City of Olympia requires all new residential properties including single family homes to be protected with fire sprinklers. Sprinklers WILL save your life. Please contact us if you have any questions about residential fire sprinklers!

Prevention At Home

Check your smoke detectors oftenEvery year thousands of people die from fires in the home. Fire kills an estimated 4,000 Americans every year and another 30,000 are seriously injured. Property damage from fire costs us at least $11.2 billion annually. Most fire victims feel that fire would "never happen to them."

Fire Power Revisited - Video, NFPA

About two-thirds of our nation's fire deaths happen in the victim's own home. The home is where we feel the safest, but are actually at the greatest risk and where we must take the most precautions. Most deaths occur from inhaling smoke or poisonous gases, not from the flames.

Kids and Fire

We know that kids are curious about fire. If you have any concerns that your child is playing with fire, please contact us at or 360.753.8348. We have personnel that are trained to evaluate fire setting behavior and provide educational intervention. 

Smoke Alarms & Smoke Detectors

A Johns Hopkins University study found that 75 percent of residential fire deaths and 84 percent of residential fire injuries could have been prevented by smoke detectors.

Most fatal fires occur in residential buildings between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. when occupants are more likely to be asleep.

The City of Olympia Codes requires all residential occupancies built after April 1983, and all residences undergoing $1,000 or more of remodeling to have smoke detectors. The construction code mandates installation of hard wire smoke detectors in all apartments built after the same date.

Ionization detectors
Ionization detectors contain radioactive material that ionizes the air, making an electrical path. When smoke enters, the smoke molecules attach themselves to the ions. The change in electric current flow triggers the alarm. The radioactive material is called americium. It's a radioactive metallic element produced by bombardment of plutonium with high energy neutrons. The amount is very small and not harmful.

Photo-electric detectors
These type of detectors contain a light source (usually a bulb) and a photocell, which is activated by light. Light from the bulb reflects off the smoke particles and is directed towards the photocell. The photocell then is activated to trigger the alarm.

When choosing a smoke detector, there are several things to consider. Think about which areas of the house you want to protect, where fire would be most dangerous, and how many you will need.  

The safest bet is to have both kinds or a combination detector with a battery back up. Be sure to check for a testing laboratory label on the detector. It means that samples of that particular model have been tested under operating conditions. Check to see if it is easy to maintain and clean. Be sure bulbs and batteries are easy to purchase and convenient to install.

The placement of smoke detectors is very important. Smoke detectors should be placed:

  • Inside each sleeping area
  • In each hallway (2 if longer than 30 feet)
  • On every level of the home, in or near living areas, including the basement
  • At the top of each stairwell
  • Smoke detectors are NOT recommended for kitchens

You can mount many detectors by yourself, but those connected to your household wiring should have their own separate circuit and be installed by a professional electrician. If you mount your detector on the ceiling, be sure to keep it at least 18 inches away from dead air space near walls and corners. If you mount it on the wall, place it six to 12 inches below the ceiling and away from corners. Be sure to keep the detector away from fireplaces and wood stoves to avoid false alarms. Keep them high because smoke rises.  

Keeping smoke detectors in good condition is easy. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions. Be sure to replace the batteries every year or as needed. Most models will make a chirping, popping or beeping sound when the battery is losing its charge. When this sound is heard, install a fresh battery, preferably an alkaline type.

Replace bulbs every three years or as needed. Keep extras handy. Check the smoke detector every 30 days by releasing smoke or pushing the test button. Clean the detector face and grillwork often to remove dust and grease. Never paint a smoke detector as it will hamper its function. Check your detector if you've been away from home.

Apartment Living

Special hazards affect those who live in apartments. Download our Apartment Fire Safety Fact Sheet for tips and information on preventing and surviving an apartment fire.

Fast Facts About Fire

"Reproduced from © 2015 NFPA."

  • Half of home fire deaths result from fires reported between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. when most people are asleep. Only one in five home fires were reported during these hours.
  • One quarter of home fire deaths were caused by fires that started in the bedroom. Another quarter resulted from fires in the living room, family room or den.
  • Three out of five home fire deaths happen from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.
  • In 2013, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 369,500 home structure fires. These fires caused 2,755 deaths, 12,200 civilian injuries, and $7.0 billion in direct damage
  • Home fires killed an average of eight people every day in 2013.
  • Cooking equipment is the leading cause of home fire injuries, followed by heating equipment.
  • Smoking materials are the leading cause of home fire deaths.
  • Most fatal fires kill only one or two people. In 2013, 12 home fires killed five or more people resulting in a total of 67 deaths.
  • <li">During 2007-2011, roughly one of every 320 households had a reported home fire per year. </li">

  • Three out of five home fire deaths in 2007-2011 were caused by fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.
  • Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in reported home fires in half.
  • In fires considered large enough to activate the smoke alarm, hardwired alarms operated 93% of the time, while battery powered alarms operated only 79% of the time.
  • When smoke alarms fail to operate, it is usually because batteries are missing, disconnected, or dead.
  • An ionization smoke alarm is generally more responsive to flaming fires and a photoelectric smoke alarm is generally more responsive to smoldering fires. For the best protection, or where extra time is needed, to awaken or assist others, both types of alarms, or combination ionization and photoelectric alarms are recommended. 

  • According to an NFPA survey, only one-third of Americans have both developed and practiced a home fire escape plan.
  • Almost three-quarters of Americans do have an escape plan; however, more than half never practiced it.
  • One-third (32%) of survey respondents who made an estimate thought they would have at least 6 minutes before a fire in their home would become life threatening. The time available is often less. Only 8% said their first thought on hearing a smoke alarm would be to get out!

  • U.S. Fire Departments responded to an estimated annual average of 156,600 cooking-related fires between 2007-2011, resulting in 400 civilian deaths, 5,080 civilian injuries and $853 million in direct damage.
  • Two of every five home fires started in the kitchen.
  • Unattended cooking was a factor in one-third of reported home cooking fires.
  • Two-thirds of home cooking fires started with ignition of food or other cooking materials.
  • Ranges accounted for almost three of every five (57%) of home cooking fire incidents. Ovens accounted for 16%.
  • Children under five face a higher risk of non-fire burns associated with cooking and hot food and drinks than of being hurt in a cooking fire.
  • Microwave ovens are one of the leading home products associated with scald burns. According to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, two out of five of the microwave oven injuries seen at emergency rooms in 2012 were scald burns.
  • Clothing was the item first ignited in less than 1% of home cooking fires, but these incidents accounted for 15% of the cooking fire deaths.
  • Fifty-five percent of people injured in home fires involving cooking equipment were hurt while attempting to fight the fire themselves.
  • Failure to clean was a factor contributing to ignition in 17% of reported home fires involving ovens or rotisseries.

  • The leading factor contributing to heating equipment fires was failure to clean. This usually involved creosote build-up in chimneys.
  • Portable or fixed space heaters, including wood stoves, were involved in one-third (33%) of home heating fires and four out of five (81%) home heating deaths.
  • Just over half of home heating fire deaths resulted from fires caused by heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses or bedding.
  • In most years, heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires, fire deaths, and fire injuries.

  • Smoking materials started an average of 17,900 smoking-material home structure fires per year during 2007-2011. These fires caused an average of 580 deaths, 1,280 injuries and $509 million in direct property damage per year.
  • Most deaths in home smoking-material fires were caused by fires that started in bedrooms (40%) or living rooms, family rooms or dens (35%).
  • Sleep was a factor in roughly one-third of the home smoking material fire deaths.
  • Possible alcohol impairment was a factor in one in five (19%) of home smoking fire deaths.
  • One out of four fatal victims of smoking-material fires is not the smoker whose cigarettes started the fire.

  • About half (48%) of home electrical fires involved electrical distribution or lighting equipment. Other leading types of equipment were washer or dryer, fan, portable or stationary space heater, air conditioning equipment water heater and range.
  • Electrical failure or malfunctions caused an average of 47,800 home fires per year in 2007-2011, resulting in   an average of 450 deaths and $1.5 billion in direct property damage.

  • During 2007-2011 candles caused 3% of home fires, 4% of home fire deaths, 7% of home fire injuries, and 6% of direct property damage from home fires.
  • On average, there are 29 home candle fires reported per day.
  • More than one-third of these fires (36%) started in the bedroom; however, the candle industry found that only 13% of candle users burn candles in the bedroom most often.
  • Nearly three in five candle fires start when things that can burn are too close to the candle.
  • Falling asleep was a factor in 11% of the home candle fires and 37% of the associated deaths.


Prevention at Your Business

Fire Inspector Greg FergusonNot all fires can be prevented, but inspections and standards minimize loss of life, injuries, and property. Our Fire Prevention Division fulfills this critical public safety mission by inspecting properties and consulting on new construction in the City.

Fire Prevention also supports the Operations Division by investigating the causes of fires and providing feedback to the firefighters in what causes fires and how extinguishing efforts mitigate that damage. The Division also coordinates and presents public education programs to schools, elder populations and other groups.

Building Inspection Program

Commercial spaces and high occupancy residential buildings are inspected annually or semiannually depending on the hazards and complexity of the inspection.

Fire inspections reduce damage, loss of life and the demand  for emergency responses in the City. In addition, inspections are required by the fire code and State law. Download our Building Inspection Checklist to be prepared in advance.

Inspections cover business areas, public areas and exterior space of businesses and multi-family residential buildings.

Business owners have direct contact with fire inspectors allowing for open dialog on fire related topics.

Yes. The fee ranges from $25 to several hundred dollars depending on business size and inspection difficulty. The fees pay for a portion of the cost of the fire inspection program and staff.

Businesses generally have 14 days to comply with the fire code as noted on the fire inspections. Life threatening or repeat violations may need to be corrected immediately or within a short timeline.

Report corrections to your fire inspector within 14 days of the inspection.

Businesses are liable for problems noted during the fire inspections. A Fire Inspector will contact you in an effort to correct the items that are outstanding. You may be billed for additional time spent on issues due to noncompliance.

Fire Extinguisher Self-Inspection

This program allows businesses to self inspect, allowing for a 6 year interval between complete servicing of certain extinguishers. Download the Fire Extinguisher Self Inspection Procedures.

Sprinkler and Fire Alarm Standards

Sprinkler and Fire Alarm standards can be found in the Olympia Municipal Code at OMC 16.40.090 (Sprinkler) and OMC 16.44.70 (Alarm).

Fire System Permits

The permit process for fire systems starts at Olympia City Hall, 2nd Floor - Community, Planning & Development department at 601 4th Ave E, Olympia WA.

Other Safety Information

Smoke Alarms Save Lives

The Red Cross and its partners will install a limited number of free smoke alarms for those who cannot afford to purchase smoke alarms or for those who are physically unable to install a smoke alarm. The Red Cross installs a limited number of specialized bedside alarms for individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. To request a free installation, link to