Fires in Residential Properties Under Construction or Undergoing Major Renovation

Report: NFPA's "Fires in Residential Properties Under Construction or Undergoing Major Renovation" (PDF, 2 MB)
Author: Richard Campbell
Issued: November 2014

Introduction

During the five-year period from 2007 through 2011, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of estimated 5,120 structure fires in residential properties that were under construction or undergoing major renovation each year. These fires resulted in 9 civilian fatalities, 94 civilian injuries, and $265 million in direct property each year.  In general, any fire in or on a structure is considered a structure fire, including incidents in which only contents were damaged.   

In this report, we separately analyze fires in those residential properties that were under construction and those that were undergoing major renovation. The report also divides residential properties into two property use classifications – residential properties that are one- and two-family homes, and residential properties other than one- or two-family homes, and these are also analyzed separately. The residential properties other than one- or two-family homes include multifamily dwellings, boarding and rooming houses, hotels and motels, residential board and care facilities, dormitory-type residences, sorority and fraternity houses, and barracks and dormitories.   

There were an estimated 2,850 fires in residential properties under construction annually from 2007 through 2011, resulting in 6 civilian fatalities, 47 civilian injuries, and $157 million in direct property losses each year.  The majority of fires and associated losses were in one- or two-family homes – 71% of fires, 83% of fatalities, 78% of injuries, and 64% of direct property damage. There were an estimated 2,270 fires annually in residential properties undergoing major renovation from 2007 through 2011, with associated losses of 3 civilian fatalities, 47 civilian injuries, and $107 million in direct property damages. Four out of five of these fires (82%) were in one- or two-family homes, as were 77% of civilian fatalities, 80% of civilian injuries, and 84% of direct property damages.   

The statistics relating to fires and associated losses in this report are national estimates of fires reported to U.S. municipal fire departments. Fires reported only to federal or state agencies or federal fire brigades are not captured here.  These national estimates are projections based on the detailed information collected by the U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS 5.0) and the Nation Fire Protection Association’s annual fire department experience survey.   

Although the fires in residential properties that are under construction or undergoing major renovation represent a small share of the fires that occur in residential properties each year, the estimated total of more than 5,000 annual such fires is not insignificant, and understanding how these fires occur and the factors that contribute to injury and death is essential in order to identify prevention measures.

Fires in Residential Properties Under Construction or Undergoing Major Renovation