USFA Report Explores Causes, Nature of December Fires


The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) reports that an estimated 128,000 fires occurring during the holidays and the month of December from 2002 to 2004 were responsible for 415 deaths and 1,650 injuries. The recently released report also states the fires caused $990 million in property loss.

According to the report, cooking is the leading cause of residential building fires in December followed by heating and open flame. Cooking fires routinely start to increase around Thanksgiving and peak in December with Christmas Day having the most cooking fires. December also has the highest incidence of children playing fires where candles are the heat source, according to the report.

Residential building fires account for 72 percent of all structure fires in the month of December, slightly above the annual average of 69 percent. Residential buildings are defined as single or multifamily dwellings, mobile homes, hotels and motels, dormitories, barracks and other similar structures. Of these December residential building fires, 49 percent were caused by cooking, 28 percent by heating fires and 9 percent by open flame fires.

The report, which was developed by the USFA’s National Fire Data Center as part of its Topical Fire Research Series, also found that the average dollar loss per fire is 8-percent higher in December than the average during other winter months. Injury and death rates, however, remain approximately the same.

The full report can be found at

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