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One Dead Following Reykjavík Fire

Three people were transported to hospital for emergency care after a fire broke out in an industrial building in Reykjavík yesterday afternoon. One later died in intensive care, according to a notice from Capital Area Police. The condition of the other two is not considered life-threatening. People were living in the building although it is not zoned for residential use.

Fire safety evaluated as adequate

A spokesperson for one of the building’s owners told RÚV yesterday that authorities had recently decided to reclassify the part of the building that people had been living in from residential housing to commercial housing, and that the owners wanted to have that decision overturned. The spokesperson also stated that the fire department had evaluated fire safety measures on the premises on October 13 as being adequate, with the exception of lacking one fire escape. The owners had been given a deadline to install an additional fire escape and had been addressing the issue.

The cause of the fire is unknown but an investigation is underway.

Many people living in non-residential buildings in capital area

This is the second case of a fire breaking out in an industrial building being used as housing in the capital area within two months. On August 20, a fire broke out in Hafnarfjörður in an industrial building where at least 17 people had been living. Luckily, no injuries or fatalities were reported. Six people who had been sleeping when the fire broke out were rescued from the flames.

“Residing in commercial [or industrial] buildings is still not permitted, though there is a lot of it in the capital area,” Birgir Finsson, Acting Fire Chief of Greater Reykjavík, told reporters at the time.

Fatal house fire prompts regulation changes

Following a fatal house fire in June 2020, Icelandic authorities launched an investigation into housing conditions in Iceland that found that between 5,000 and 7,000 people were living in properties classified as commercial or industrial buildings in Iceland in 2021. In July 2023, the Minister of Infrastructure drafted an amendment to fire safety regulations in an effort to ensure more people have their actual residence registered correctly and make it easier for authorities to enter housing where fire prevention measures may be inadequate.

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