Catastrophic multiple-death fires

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Report: NFPA's "Catastrophic Multiple-Death Fires in 2013"
Author: Stephen G. Badger
Issued: September 2014

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


In 2013, firefighters in the United States responded to an estimated 1.24 million fires, 387,000 of which occurred in residential structures, 100,500 in nonresidential structures, and 752,500 in non-structural or outside fires. These fires accounted for an estimated 3,240 deaths, 2,785 of which occurred in residential structures, 70 in nonresidential structures, and 385 in fires outside of structures. 

Twenty 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 20 fires killed 122 people, 28 of whom were children under the age of six. This accounted for 0.002 percent of the total estimated fires and 3.8 percent of the total fire deaths in the United States in 2013. By comparison, there were 17 catastrophic multiple-death fires in 2012, resulting in the deaths of 82 people, including 16 children under age six.

Of the catastrophic fires that occurred in 2013, 12 occurred in homes, resulting in 67 deaths. All of the 28 children under age six that died in multiple-death fires last year died in residential properties. Another six catastrophic fires occurred in non-residential structures, resulting in 31 deaths, including 13 firefighters. And two occurred in non-structure fires, resulting in 24 deaths, including 19 firefighters.

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