Strip mall structural fires can devastate multiple businesses at once and spell millions in damages for the owners of the building itself. The feature that makes a strip mall attractive to consumers—how near the businesses are to one another—is also a danger when one business suffers a fire. For example, in 2013, a fire spread along six blocks of the New Jersey boardwalk areas of Seaside Park and Seaside Heights. As 400 firefighters fought back the blaze, the fire—aided by wind—rapidly gained ground. Because of the close proximity of the business along the boardwalk, however, the fire was able to damage between 30 and 60 storefronts, reducing some to nothing more than cinders.
Attorney Bill Voss has worked with a numerous businesses and policyholders after large-loss fires, and he’d like to share some important information about the causes of strip mall fires and how to prevent them.
Major Causes of Strip Mall Structural Fires
One key to preventing strip mall fires is simply understanding how they happen. Let’s take a closer look at four common causes:
- Electrical fires. One of the most common causes of all fires is electrical issues and faulty wiring, and strip malls are no different. Fires can be started by faulty wiring, defective electrical equipment, lack of maintenance, or other issues.
- Kitchen fires. Many strip malls contain restaurants, and kitchens are one of the biggest culprits in structural fires. It should be no surprise, as kitchens often contain open flames, high heat, and flammable goods such as oil and grease.
- Arson. Sadly, arson is a fairly common cause of strip mall fires. Sometimes the arsonist is affiliated with one of the businesses in the space, but sometimes it is simply a person committing a meaningless crime.
- Wind and nearby fires. Strip malls are often located in busy retail areas where multiple clusters of buildings offer visitors places to eat, shop, and play. The downside to this arrangement is that, when a fire starts in one building, it can easily spread with strong winds or dry conditions.
Although much depends on the specifics of your coverage, many commercial property insurance plans do cover the peril of fire. If your strip mall or commercial business has been damaged by a structural fire, read your policies carefully before submitting a claim, or call our commercial claim attorneys for help planning and maximizing your recovery.
Three Tips for Preventing Strip Mall Structural Fires
Perhaps the easiest way to ensure that your strip mall or commercial property withstands the devastation of a structural fire is to prevent the fire from happening in the first place. Here are some steps you can take as a business owner or property owner:
- Keep your building up to code and up to date. Many of the most common causes of strip mall structural fires can be prevented simply by making sure that your building’s wiring and appliances are all working, current, and hazard-free.
- Consider better security. If you believe you are at risk for arson, or if you simply want to prevent property damage by vandals, consider hiring security or taking extra security measure to keep your strip mall safe.
- Work with your building’s tenants. In many cases, a fire will be started not by a mistake that the property owner made, but by a mistake that a business owner made. Make sure that your tenants are aware of the common causes of strip mall fires and that they know to report any potentially dangerous conditions.
Fire Insurance Claims for Strip Mall Properties
A strip mall fire can spread down an entire line of businesses, consuming row upon row of storefronts. A strip mall structural fire can leave the property owner and multiple business owners depending on a successfully filed fire insurance claim in order to rebuild and preserve their livelihoods. Although filing an insurance claim sounds fairly easy, the reality is that process can be complex and time-consuming, especially when other businesses and policyholders are involved. Especially in large-loss fire claims, it can be very difficult to stay in control of your insurance claim and get a positive outcome.
If you need answers about a commercial fire damage claim, or if your claim has been denied, call the Voss Law Firm today at 888-614-7730 to talk with a skilled insurance litigation lawyer in a free consultation. You may also wish to request a complimentary copy of our book, Commercial Insurance Claims: The Basics, which will help you understand the challenges you may face and how to assert your rights when problems arise.