Urbana fire chief: More safety rules could prevent mobile home fires

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Urbana Fire Chief supports mobile home regulations

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The Urbana fire chief is supportive of a proposal that could lead to safety upgrades to manufactured homes, including mobile homes, after multiple fires in Champaign County in recent years, including one that killed a 16-year-old.

Chief Mike Keller said he’d support anything that will help with fire safety after hearing of Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s interest in having the state take over safety oversight of all manufactured homes.

RELATED: One in critical condition after Champaign County mobile home fire

Oversight currently is handled by a board of industry leaders and the governor’s office said manufactured homes aren’t regulated to the same standard as other homes.

The current oversight board argues the state doesn’t have the expertise to regulate manufactured homes.

Manufactured homes are more likely to catch fire, Keller said.

“Manufactured homes that we go to are older,” he said. “So they’re not very well protected by fire safety and the way they’re constructed is very poor as far as preventing fires and preventing the spread of fires.”

RELATED: Teen killed in Champaign County house fire

Many older mobile homes have paneling, he said, which can burn rapidly and produce a lot of heat.

“Put that with plastics that we have in homes nowadays,” he said, “and it just makes it a deadly combination.”

Jordan Edley, 16, was killed in a mobile home fire in Woodstock in December 2015. Champaign County deputies and firefighters with the Northeast Champaign County Fire District were unable to save him because of the size of the fire.

In January, a family of four barely escaped their mobile home after it caught fire in the 100 block of Maple Wood Circle near Springfield Urbana Pike. The family is now recovering, Keller said, but some members have long-term effects.

The mobile home was damaged by the fire so badly that he said a cause couldn’t be determined.

“It was a very hot fire due to the construction of the mobile home,” he said.

One neighbor in the mobile home park didn’t want to give her name, but said witnessing the fire has made her more vigilant in her own home.

“I unplug things at night before I got to bed,” she said. “Double check things. Make sure things are outside.”

A state board could improve fire safety, Keller said, if it created new requirements for all manufactured homes.

“The big thing would be smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, requiring those in those types of homes,” Keller said. “That would be a big, big help.”

But he said that would require funding.

“If there’s anything mandated for local governments to do … we have to have funding,” Keller said.

Residents of manufactured homes can take several steps themselves to prevent fires, he said.

“Make sure you have smoke detectors,” he said, “early warning devices and all of your exits are clear because usually they have two exits.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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