Vehicle fire trends and patterns

Report: NFPA's "U.S. Vehicle Fire Trends and Patterns"
Author: Marty Ahrens
Issued: June 2010

A complete overview of vehicle fire patterns and trends and the U.S. highway vehicle fire problem. Includes trend tables, type of vehicle, time of day, month of year, day of week, heat source, area of origin, item first ignited and more.

Executive Summary

In 2003-2007, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 287,000 vehicle fires per year.  These fires caused an average of 480 civilian deaths, 1,525 civilian injuries, and $1.3 billion in direct property damage annually. 

Details about the causes and circumstances of vehicle fires are provided by Version 5.0 of the U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS 5.0). National estimates of these factors are derived from NFIRS 5.0 and NFPA’s annual fire department experience survey. The statistics in the following paragraphs are annual averages for fires reported in 2003-2007.

Ninety-three percent of reported vehicle fires and 92% of vehicle fire deaths involved highway-type vehicles such as cars, trucks, buses, recreational vehicles, and motorcycles. The term “highway vehicle fires” is used to describe the type of vehicle, not the location of the fire. During 2003-2007, the 267,600 highway vehicles reported per year caused an average of 441 civilian deaths, 1,326 civilian fire injuries, and $1.0 billion in direct property damage. On average, 31 highway vehicle fires were reported per hour. These fires killed one person a day. Overall, highway vehicles fires were involved in 17% of reported U.S. fires, 12% of U.S. fire deaths, 8% of U.S. civilian fire injuries, and 9% of the direct property damage from reported fires. 

According to the U.S Federal Highway Administration data, roughly 2,980 billion miles were driven, on average, per year on U.S. roads during this period. Roughly 90 highway vehicle fires and 0.15 highway vehicle fire deaths were reported per billion miles driven.

NFPA (National Fire Protection Association)
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