Report: NFPA's "Large-Loss Fires in the United States" (PDF, 196 KB)
Author: Stephen G. Badger
Issued: November 2015
Incident descriptions and summary statistics on fires causing $10 million or more in damage.
Over the past 10 years, the number of large-loss fires in the United States, defined as fires that result in property damage of at least $10 million, has ranged from 16 to 45 a year, with an average of approximately 25 fires per year. In 2014, 25 large-loss fires caused a total of almost $654.3 million in direct property losses. While these fires accounted for just 0.002 percent of the estimated number of fires in 2014, they accounted for 5.6 percent of the total estimated dollar loss. They also accounted for five civilian deaths, 15 civilian injuries, and 10 firefighter injuries.
Fifteen of those fires—nine more than in 2013—resulted in more than $20 million each in property damage. These fires, which included 13 in structures as well as one boat fire and a wildfire, resulted in a combined property loss of $518.6 million, which represents 79.3 percent of the total loss in large-loss fires and 4.5 percent of the total fire losses in the United States for 2014.
The largest fire of 2014 in terms of direct property loss was a pier fire in California that resulted in more than $100 million in damage. The smoky fire, which was reportedly started by a welder’s torch, smoldered for more than 32 hours and burned under the pier and a warehouse on the 150-foot (46-meter) wharf, resulting in a partial collapse of the warehouse floor. Nearly 1,000 dock workers were evacuated from the area, and two cargo ships were moved to safer locations in the harbor. No injuries were reported.
A number of buildings under construction were also damaged in high-loss fires. Six apartment buildings or complexes in various stages of completion and a department store under renovation sustained losses totaling $187 million.