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Recently, wireless sensor networks (WSNs) have become mature enough to go beyond being simple fine-grained continuous monitoring platforms and become one of the enabling technologies for disaster early-warning systems. Event detection functionality of WSNs can be of great help and importance for (near) real-time detection of, for example, meteorological natural hazards and wild and residential fires. From the data-mining perspective, many real world events exhibit specific patterns, which can be detected by applying machine learning (ML) techniques. In this paper, we introduce ML techniques for distributed event detection in WSNs and evaluate their performance and applicability for early detection of disasters, specifically residential fires. To this end, we present a distributed event detection approach incorporating a novel reputation-based voting and the decision tree and evaluate its performance in terms of detection accuracy and time complexity.