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Fire Marshal's Office
Fire Safety in Multi-Family Dwellings
Multi-family dwellings pose a large life-safety risk due to the number of occupants that can be living under one roof. Owners and property managers of this type of dwelling are responsible for managing the inherent safety dangers that may be present. Fires in multi-family dwellings can have catastrophic results in occupants’ lives whether by losing property or in the worst case scenario losing lives. Care must be taken and attention must be given to these safety issues in order to prevent devastating life-altering results and to maintain a fire-safe environment for all tenants. The safety items listed below are often overlooked or their importance is not completely understood. The Prince William County Fire Marshal’s Office is dedicated to helping educate owners and property managers of multi-family dwellings in order to maintain the highest level of fire safety possible.
It is very important that owners and property managers of multi-family dwellings understand the fire protection systems within their buildings. This includes knowing what fire protection systems you have (such as sprinkler systems fire alarms fire pumps etc.) and understanding what they do and how they function. And it is imperative that these systems be maintained in working condition at all times. These systems are designed to watch for fire defend against fire and provide a more life-preserving atmosphere in case of fire. They can alert residents to a possible fire and provide them with the precious time needed to make a successful escape. In addition to fire protection systems it is important to be familiar with common hazards that can cause fires to start and keep people from getting out safely. Some of the common hazards associated with multi-family dwellings are:
  • Blocked exits
  • Unserviced or missing fire extinguishers
  • Storage in corridors
  • Storage under stairs
  • Lack of exit signs
  • Accumulation of dust and lint in laundry rooms
  • Combustibles stored next to water heaters and furnaces
  • Lack of fire department access
  • Fire protection equipment not working or serviced
  • Faulty untested standpipes
  • Holes in fire walls
  • Stairway doors blocked open
  • Lack of smoke detectors and/or records of testing
  • Storage of hazardous or flammable items
  • Painted sprinkler heads
  • Improper use of extension cords
The following fire safety information is taken from the Statewide Fire Prevention Code (SFPC) the Prince William County Code and the Code of Virginia. The specific code sections have been included with each requirement for your reference. While this list is not exhaustive it does list the most common codes that you should be familiar with. A self-inspection checklist is provided below for your use as a guide to help you maintain a code-compliant and fire-safe environment. 
If you have questions contact the Prince William County Fire Marshal’s Office at 703-792-6360 or online at


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