(March 3, 2013)--Fire officials say tenants should make sure their landlords, and even their neighbors, are doing everything they can to keep everyone as safe as possible.
Dozens of residents in Central Texas were evacuated this week after several apartments caught fire.
Fire officials say an apartment fire can spread from one unit to the next in minutes and destroy an entire complex.
That's something Chris Bowers and his family of three have learned.
"If you get an apartment, you run the risk of putting your life in other people's hands, so it's a tradeoff between being more affordable or trusting your life in other people's hands," Bowers said.
Bowers, his wife Sari and their 7-month old son survived an apartment fire this week in Killeen, but they're still wondering 'what if.'
Fire officials say most apartment fires are caused by cooking equipment like stove tops, heating equipment such as space heaters and smoking materials.
Officials also say when it comes to apartment fire safety it's the job of both the landlord and tenant.
Tenants should know about the apartment they live in.
Copperas Cove Deputy Fire Chief said tenants should ask the following questions:
Has there been any fires in that apartment previously?
Has that fire damage been corrected appropriately?
Have there been any problems associated with other occupants in that apartment complex on upkeep as far as fire safety?
Those questions should also include landscaping and stairways.
Landlords must provide all apartments with working smoke detectors.
Fire extinguishers must also be provided either for each apartment or in a common area nearby.
Fire officials advise tenants who don't have both to speak up.
"If they continue to have problems with the landlord not doing it, they can contact our office," said Temple Fire Marshal Jonathan Christian.
He also suggested living in apartments that have a sprinkler system and avoid those that have a common attic, which can allow smoke and fire to spread within the complex.
Officials said fire safety begins in your own apartment.
"The best thing the renter can do is stay safe within their apartment complex and fire conscious and avoid starting fires within the apartment complex," Christian said.
Other tips include making hallways and walkways are clear and turning off stoves and other electronics when you leave the house.