The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) United States Fire Administration (USFA) issued a special report examining the causes and characteristics of winter residential building fires - those that occur in January, February, and March. The report, Winter Residential Building Fires, was developed by USFA’s National Fire Data Center and is further evidence of FEMA’s commitment to sharing information with fire departments and first responders around the country to help them keep their communities safe.
“Our nation’s residential building fire experience is collectively highest in the winter season,” said Kelvin J. Cochran, United States Fire Administrator. “In the first three weeks of this February, 187 civilian fire deaths have been reported to the USFA. It is important each household be prepared and practice fire safety. The Winter Residential Building Fires topical report should be of great value to all firefighters and local journalists. Join with the USFA and share this information with your communities, have working smoke alarms, and take the necessary steps which can prevent fires.”
The report is part of the Topical Fire Report Series and is based on 2005 to 2007 data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS). According to the report, an estimated 108,400 winter residential building fires occur annually in the United States, resulting in an estimated average of 945 deaths, 3,825 injuries, and $1.7 billion in property loss.
Cooking is the leading cause of winter residential building fires at 36 percent followed by heating at 23 percent, and winter residential building fires occur mainly in the early evening hours, peaking from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Approximately half of winter residential building fires are small incidents that are confined to noncombustible containers and rarely result in serious injury or large content losses. However, the other half of these types of fires are not confined and, on average, result in approximately twice the number of fatalities and injuries as all residential building fires.
The topical reports are designed to explore facets of the U.S. fire problem as depicted through data collected in NFIRS. Each topical report briefly addresses the nature of the specific fire or fire-related topic, highlights important findings from the data, and may suggest other resources to consider for further information. Also included are recent examples of fire incidents that demonstrate some of the issues addressed in the report or that put the report topic in context.