Sauna Fires in the News: A group of men at a popular fitness center decided to spend some time in the sauna to relax after a workout. When they exited the sauna one of the men left the newspaper he was reading on the bench. Maybe it was the gust caused by the sauna door closing or one of the men moved the newspaper, but somehow it ended up on top of the sauna’s heater. A short while later members and employees at the fitness center began noticing smoke coming from the men’s locker room.
Luckily, the employees at the fitness center were well-trained in their emergency action plan and were able to successfully evacuate everyone from the facility and the fire department was quickly on the scene. The employees were successful in avoiding any fatalities or serious injuries, although a few people were treated for minor smoke inhalation, but the damage to the facility was done. Even though the fire was relatively contained to only the men’s locker rooms it still caused an estimated $1 million in damages from the smoke, fire, and water from the firefighters and the sprinkler system. It also took weeks before the facility was up and fully running again.
Sauna Fire Protection Techniques
Saunas are a popular and common aspect of many fitness and wellness facilities. Sauna fires are a relatively frequent problem inflicting YMCAs, health clubs, spas, and homes with the potential to cause property damage, injuries, and even deaths. There are numerous ways a sauna fire can start:
- Electrical malfunction
- Newspapers, towels, and swimsuits left in the sauna
- Drying of the wood which lowers the ignition temperature
While sauna fires are a very real threat, they are very preventable. The following list contains a few simple procedures that can protect your facility, staff, and members from the potentially devastating effects of a sauna fire.
- Sprinkler the sauna: Saunas are typically located near water sources, like showers, making it simple and relatively inexpensive to place sprinkler heads in them.
- Place protective wooden slats around sauna heater: Slats should be made of the same material as the rest of the sauna and be placed at least one inch from the heater.
- Place appropriate signs to inform individuals about the fire hazard posed by saunas. Including the prohibition of placing clothing or towels on or near the sauna heater for the purposes of drying them.
- Encourage staff to regularly check saunas for clothing or newspapers placed too close to the heater. Establish a staff schedule of checking the locker room, including the sauna, every 30 to 45 minutes. The best way to ensure this policy is followed is to create a checklist that needs to be signed by staff every 30 to 45 minutes confirming the locker room was checked.
- Regularly inspect inside the sauna, especially near the heating unit, to determine if there is any charring, burning, or discoloration. If any is noticed, contact the manufacturer to determine the source of the problem and how best to fix or replace the cause of the problem.
- Perform all manufacturer-scheduled maintenance. It is important that saunas are functioning properly and safely in order to prevent fires. Routinely servicing your sauna will ensure that all the components are safe. It is especially important to make sure that the temperature gauge is reading properly.