Fire Fast Facts

Many fires are caused by carelessness in every day life. Here are some quick facts and statistics about the causes of fire and what to do to help prevent them:

COOKING

  • Cooking fires are the #1 of home fires and home fire injuries.
  • In 2005, cooking equipment was involved in 146,400 reported home structure fires, the largest share for any major cause. These fires resulted in 480 civilian deaths, 4,690 civilian injuries, and $876 million in direct property damage.
  • The majority of home fires – 40% – start in the kitchen.
  • Unattended cooking is the leading factor contributing to ignition in home cooking fires, accounting for one-third of such fires. More than half of all cooking fire injuries occurred when people tried to fight the fire themselves.
  • Most home cooking fires (67%) in 2005 started with the range or stove.
  • Electric ranges or stoves have a higher risk of fires, deaths, injuries and property damage, compared to gas ranges or stoves.

ELECTRICAL

  • Electrical distribution and lighting equipment were involved in an estimated 20,900 reported home fires in 2005. These fires resulted in 500 civilian deaths and 1,100 injuries, with an estimated $862 million in direct property damage per year.
  • Lamps, light fixtures, and light bulbs accounted for the largest share of 2002-2005 non-confined fires among major types of electrical distribution equipment, while cords and plugs accounted for the largest share of civilian fire deaths.
  • Extension cord fires outnumbered fires beginning with attached or unattached power cords by more than two-to-one.
  • Cords and plugs were involved in one-eighth (12%) of the 2002-2005 home electrical distribution and lighting equipment fires, but roughly two-fifths (39%) of associated civilian deaths.

SMOKING MATERIALS

  • Smoking materials (i.e., cigarettes, cigars, pipes, etc.) are the leading cause of fire deaths in the United States. Roughly one of every four fire deaths per year in 2002-2005 was attributed to smoking materials.
  • In 2002-2005, there were an estimated 82,400 smoking-material fires per year in the United States. These fires caused 800 civilian deaths and 1,660 civilian injuries.
  • Older adults are at the highest risk of death or injury from smoking-material fires even though they are less likely to smoke than younger adults.
  • The most common material first ignited in home smoking-material fire deaths were mattresses and bedding and upholstered furniture.

CANDLES

  • During 2005, an estimated 15,600 home structure fires started by candles were reported to local fire departments. These fires resulted in an estimated 150 civilian deaths, 1,270 civilian injuries and an estimated direct property loss of $539 million. Homes include dwellings, duplexes, manufactured housing and apartments.
  • Although home candle fires fell 8% from 2004 to 2005, more than twice as many were reported in 2005 as in 1990.
  • Candle fires accounted for an estimated 4% of all reported home fires in 2005.
  • The top five days for home candle fires were Christmas, Christmas Eve, New Year’s Day, New Year’s Eve, and Halloween.

HOME FIRES

  • In 2007, there were an estimated 399,000 reported home structure fires resulting in 2,865 civilian deaths and 13,600 civilian injuries and $7.4 billion in direct damage in the United States.
  • Home fires caused 84% of civilian deaths and 77% of injuries.
  • Heating equipment and smoking are the leading causes of civilian home fire deaths.
  • January and December were the peak months for home fires and home fire deaths.
  • More than half of all home fire deaths result from incidents reported between 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m., but only 20% of home fires occur between these hours.
  • Children under 5 and older adults face the highest risk of home fire death, but young adults face a higher risk of home fire injury.

HEATING

  • Heating fires are the second-leading cause of home fires.
  • In 2005, heating equipment was involved in 62,200 reported U.S. home structure fires, with associated losses of 670 civilian deaths, 1,550 civilian injuries, and $909 million in direct property damage.
  • Nearly half (44%) of all home heating fires occurred in December, January and February in 2002-2005.
  • Heating equipment fires accounted for 16% of all reported home fires in 2005 (second behind cooking) and 22% of home fire deaths.
  • Space heaters, excluding fireplaces, chimneys, and chimney connectors, were involved in one-third (32%) of the home heating fires but three-fourths (73%) of the deaths in 2005.
  • Between 2002-2005, the leading factor contributing to home heating fires (27%) and deaths (53%) was heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattress, or bedding. This excludes fires reported as confined fires.

SMOKE ALARMS

  • Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in reported home structure fires in half.
  • A 2004 U.S. telephone survey found that 96% of U.S. households had at least one smoke alarm, yet in 2000-2004, no smoke alarms were present or none operated in almost half (46%) of the reported home fires.
  • An estimated 890 lives could be saved each year if all homes had working smoke alarms.
  • 65% of reported home fire deaths in 2000-2004 resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.
  • The fire death rate in homes with working smoke alarms is 51% less than the rate for homes without this protection.
  • In one out of every five homes equipped with at least one smoke alarm installed, not a single one was working.
  • When smoke alarms fail it is most often because of missing, disconnected or dead batteries. Nuisance activations were the leading cause of disabled smoke alarms.

HOME FIRE SPRINKLERS

  • When sprinklers are present, the chances of dying in a fire are reduced by more than one-half and the average property loss per fire is cut by one-third to two-thirds, compared to fires where sprinklers are not present.
  • There is approximately a two-thirds reduction in death rate per thousand fires if sprinklers are added to dwellings.
  • NFPA has no record of a fire killing three or more people in a completely sprinklered building where the system was properly operating, except in an explosion or flash fire or where civilians or firefighters were killed while engaged in fire suppression operations.