Catastrophic multiple-death fires

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Report: NFPA's "Catastrophic Multiple-Death Fires in 2014"
Author: Stephen G. Badger
Issued: September 2015

Incident descriptions and summary statistics on fires causing at least 5 deaths.


In 2014, firefighters in the United States responded to an estimated 1.29 million fires, 386,500 of which occurred in residential structures, 107,500 in nonresidential structures, and 804,000 in non-structural or outside fires. These fires accounted for an estimated 3,275 deaths, 2,795 of which occurred in residential structures, 65 in nonresidential structures, and 415 in fires outside of structures. 

Twenty-four of these fires were categorized as catastrophic multiple-death fires, defined here as fires or explosions in homes or apartments that result in five or more fire-related deaths, or fires or explosions in all other structures and outside of structures, such as wildfires and vehicle fires, that claim three or more lives.

These 24 fires killed 128 people. This accounted for 0.002 percent of the total estimated fires and 3.9 percent of the total fire deaths in the U.S. in 2014. By comparison, 20 catastrophic multiple-death fires occurred in 2013, resulting in the deaths of 122 people, including 28 children under age six.

Of the 24 fires that occurred in 2014, 15 were in homes, resulting in 88 deaths, with 11 victims under age six. Five were in non-home structures, resulting in 20 deaths, and four were non-structure fires resulting in 20 deaths. None of the victims in the nine non-home fires were children under the age of six.