A five-story mall in Ufa, Russia went up in flames yesterday, injuring 15 people and killing two, according to RIA Novosti. One of the injured, a 27-year-old man, is in serious condition with burns to 34% of his body. An official with the Emergency Ministry has stated a possibility of the roof collapsing.
Officials still aren't entirely sure what happened to trigger the fire, though it seems that whatever happened, it caused an explosion, perhaps from a gas tank in a restaurant. The possible causes appear to have been narrowed down, however, to either a short circuit, mishandling of fire, or violation of fire safety rules.
As RIA Novosti explains, this would make the Ufa fire an all-too-common incident in Russia. They atate an annual death toll of 15,000 Russians per year due to fires, which with an estimated national population of 141,850,000, works out to 10.57 deaths per 100,000 people. In comparison, page 6, table 4 of this PDF file shows the rates for 25 developed nations, the most deadly of which is Hungary at 1.98 deaths per 100,000, followed by Finland at 1.87 and Japan at 1.67. Singapore, the safest, shows at 0.19 deaths per 100,000, followed by the Netherlands and Switzerland at 0.47 each.
And that's a Russian source's death count. External sources seem to gravitate towards "up to 18,000" per year. That would push the total to a potential 12.69 per 100,000.
Why is Russia burning so brightly? The chief cause is subpar safety standards, aggravated by corruption and bribery. Barely a fire in Russia goes reported without some mention of the poor safety record. Stories like this occur with depressing regularity. The forests are prone as well, with a particularly bad heatwave last year leading to wildfires that wiped entire villages off the map. However, despite the continual pressure to improve matters, fires in Russia are something of a longstanding tradition, as Cathy A. Frierson explored in her 2004 book, All Russia Is Burning!
The tradition does not appear to be going away anytime soon.