Report: 92% of Structure Fire Deaths Occur in Home Fires

Home fires account for 92 percent of fire deaths that occur in structures, according to the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) new study, “Home Structure Fires”. The fires cause an average of 2,840 civilian deaths each year.

“This study strongly underscores the need to aggressively work to reduce the number of home fires in this country in order to save lives from fire,” says Lorraine Carli, NFPA vice president of communications. <p>

During 2003-2007, U.S. fire departments responded to approximately 380,000 home fires a year. The fires caused a large number of civilian deaths and an average of 13,160 reported civilian fire injuries. Additionally, the fires produced $6.4 billion in direct property damage.

In that same time period, smoking materials caused the largest number of fire deaths. Heating equipment was the second leading cause of home fires and home fire deaths.

Cooking equipment continues to be the leading cause of home fires, civilian fire injuries and unreported fires, with 41 percent of home fires being started in the kitchen area and causing 15 percent of the home fire deaths and 36 percent of the reported fire injuries.

Other key findings include:

  • Reported home fires peaked around dinner hours of 5 to 8 p.m.
  • Only 20 percent of the reported home fires occurred between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.; however, 52 percent of home fire deaths resulted from fires reported during these hours.
  • 30 percent of reported home structure fires and 38 percent of home fire deaths occurred in the quarter including December, January and February.
  • Reported apartment fires were more likely to start in the kitchen than fires in one- and two-family homes.
  • The two leading items first ignited in home fire deaths are upholstered furniture in 21 percent of home fire deaths, followed by mattress and bedding in 13 percent of the deaths.

Properly installed and maintained fire protection can prevent most fire deaths. Forty percent of fatal home fire injuries occurred in properties where no smoke alarms were present. Home fire sprinklers can also help, as the death rate per 1,000 reported home fires was 83 percent lower when wet pipe sprinkler systems were present, compared to reported home fires without automatic extinguishing equipment.

“Smoke alarms have been a key factor in significantly reducing the fire death problem since their widespread use beginning in the ‘70s. The move to require home fire sprinklers in new homes will be the next step forward in fire protection,” says Carli.

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