Fatal Fires in Residential Buildings Report issued by the USFA

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) United States Fire Administration (USFA)has  issued a special report examining the characteristics of fatal fires in residential buildings. The report, Fatal Fires in Residential Buildings, 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.

The report is part of the Topical Fire Report Series and is based on 2006 to 2008 data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS). According to the report, an estimated 1,800 fatal residential building fires occur annually in the United States, resulting in an estimated average of 2,635 deaths, 725 injuries, and $196 million in property loss. The leading cause of fatal residential fires is smoking (19 percent) and the leading areas of fire origin are bedrooms (27 percent) and common areas such as living and family rooms (23 percent). In addition, fatal residential fires, which tend to be larger, cause more damage, and have higher injury rates than nonfatal residential fires, occur most frequently in the late evening and early morning hours, peaking from midnight to 5 a.m. Finally, these types of fires are more prevalent in the cooler months, peaking in January (13 percent).

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.

Findings

■ An estimated 1,800 fatal residential building fires are reported to U.S. fire departments each year and cause an estimated 2,635 deaths, 725 injuries, and $196 million in property loss.

■ Fatal residential building fires tend to be larger, cause more damage, and have higher injury rates than nonfatal residential fires.

■ Smoking is the leading cause of fatal residential building fires (19 percent).

■ The leading areas of fire origin in fatal residential building fires are bedrooms (27 percent) and common areas such as living and family rooms (23 percent).

■ Fatal residential building fires are more prevalent in the cooler months, peaking in January (13 percent).

■ Fatal residential building fires occur most frequently in the late evening and early morning hours, peaking from midnight to 5 a.m. One-third (33 percent) of fatal residential fires occur during these 5 hours.

■ About two-thirds (66 percent) of fatal residential building fires are confined to the building of origin or extend beyond the building of origin.

The U.S. fire death rate has gone down dramatically over the past three decades since the creation of the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), from over 30 deaths per million population to 11 deaths per million population. The United States, however, continues to have one of the highest fire death rates per capita among Western Nations.

 The original goal for USFA was to help lead a reduction in fire deaths by 50 percent in a generation. With annual fire deaths dropping from over 9,000 to less than 3,500 in that period of time, USFA’s goal has been achieved. Nevertheless, fire deaths are still high. Approximately 1,800 fatal residential building fires occurred annually in recent years (2006 to 2008). These fires resulted in an annual average of approximately 2,635 deaths, 725 injuries, and $196 million in property loss.

This report is one of a continuing series of topical reports issued by the USFA’s National Fire Data Center and addresses the characteristics of fatal residential building fires reported to the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) from 2006 to 2008, the most recent data available at the time of the analysis. Because 79 percent of fire deaths occur in residential buildings, they are the focus of this report. The information in this report about fatal residential fires can be used not only to assess progress but also to understand the nature of the fatal fire problem and its implications for targeting of prevention programs. For the purpose of this report, the terms “residential fires” and “fatal residential fires” are synonymous with “residential building fires” and “fatal residential building fires,” respectively. “Fatal residential fires” is used throughout the body of this report; the findings, tables, charts, headings, and footnotes reflect the full category, “fatal residential building fires.”

The report, Fatal Fires in Residential Buildings,HERE 

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